I have lots of people who appreciate old photos who tell me that "I'm sittin' on a gold mine" because the studio's files and my father's photography files are pretty much complete and intact from 1946 to the present. My father was insistent on guarding his negatives because he knew that they represented a piece of someones life and I've tried to follow suit. When we switched to digital several years ago, I set up my own system of backups and backups to the backups in the hope that I would never lose someones history as well.
I'm sure there are some negatives that have gotten damaged or misplaced through the past half century but that's a rare occurrence. It really does give us a wonderful feeling when former clients call us because their wedding album has been destroyed or their portrait damaged and they want to know if there is anything we can do to help. The majority of the time it's no problem for us to find the old negative and have a perfect, new photo made.
Sometimes it takes a little digging to find an old set of negatives and sometimes in the process of searching we find an envelope of negative that just looks too irresistible to us. We bring it back in the studio and often find pieces of our own personal history. I found such an envelope last week when I was looking up an old file from 1963. It's my first grade class on a field trip to the Conway Fire Department. We all climbed up on the fire truck and my father was called to take our photo. I don't remember the day very clearly but it was a treat to see all my classmates in this photo. By the way, I'm on the front row, sixth from the left, with the bangs.
Anyway, long story short, I think I'll start sharing some of these treasures from the archives here as I run across them.