How to Save a Scrapbook: AKA Much Ado about Scrapbooks

How to Save a Scrapbook: AKA Much Ado about Scrapbooks

Much ado about scrapbooks, #amiright?

Anyone who has an old scrapbook in their life knows what I'm talking about. The tape is brittle, the glue has stained, and everything is stuck on acidic paper forever.

<insert muffled scream>

If you’re an archivist, curator, records manager, or anyone with scrapbooks in their care, these homemade tomes can seem like a preservation nightmare.

And yes, there are ways some to deal with these issues, from interleaving the pages with acid-free tissue to sending it to a paper conservator for comprehensive treatment, but that's not the point I want to make here.

Despite my professional mission to make preservation EASY and FUN, this American Archives Month I’m asking different questions. I’m not here to tell you the HOW, but to remind you of the WHY. To look for the silver lining in these acidic monstrosities (too much?) and be grateful for what they are.

Personally, I love scrapbooks, even if they are deteriorating before my eyes. Because if the scrapbooks didn’t exist, their carefully curated contents would most likely be gone with the wind.

Scrapbooks were often much-loved by the person who made them. I like to think about scrapbooks as mini-exhibits. They center around a particular subject or event and are often a wealth of information on said subject. They often take on the creator / curator’s unique perspective and showcase what materials were available to them at that time. They’re often a great way to keep a collection of newspaper clippings in one spot, so even though the tape, glue, and acidic paper (and fragility of the news print itself) make their preservation a <gigantic> nightmare, scrapbooks are great collections of uniquely compiled content.

How to preserve them is a whole different animal (a horse of a different color?) but scrapbooks are often treasured by families and are easier to keep intact over the decades than boxes of loose records. If I had to choose between a poorly preserved scrapbook or having no records at all, I’d happily take the scrapbook any day of the week!

So celebrate your scrapbooks, enjoy their contents, and be thankful that they’ve survived in one piece long enough for you to read, ogle, and share. And as for their preservation, each historic scrapbook is different and has its own, unique needs. But their content has survived and for me right now, that’s the most important thing. Preservation mistakes may have been made in the past, but honestly, that’s part of their story, too.

What do you think about this post? Too controversial? :) Let us know! 

I referenced Gone with the Wind and the Wizard of Oz in this post and I’m not sure why. Hmm.

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