Behind the scenes: Preserving Scrapbooks in Heritage Protocol & University Archives

While many of us no longer create traditional scrapbooks and rely on digital solutions in the form of Pinterest, Facebook, and Flickr, there are still many examples from the long history of scrapbooking that need special care. At Heritage Protocol & University Archives, we use a variety of methods to preserve our large collection. We choose the best way to preserve while trying to maintain the original look and feel for the viewer.

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Some scrapbooks have a multitude of types of materials that need extra consideration. In the over 100 scrapbooks created by the Florida State College for Women and  FSU alumni, we have found things such as bones, hair, fabric, dolls, jewelry, flowers and other plants, along with paper based memorabilia. This scrapbook has varnished wood covers that require special handling and usually a sturdy box. 

 

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If the scrapbook is in relatively good condition (clean of obvious dirt and debris, dry, no mold, or obvious insect activity) wrapping gently, and/or boxing and storing in a cool dry place is a simple way to preserve.When tying with linen tape, we are careful not to tie so tightly that the covers or pages are damaged at the edges.

 

IIMG_2873nterleaving pages containing photographs and other items with buffered or at least acid free paper can also provide  stabilization. Cutting the sheet to fir the page and gently tucking it in works well.

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With photographs,  a properly cut piece of buffered or acid free paper can be slid under it to create a barrier between it and the paper it rests on. There is still the matter of the photo corners, but some separation is better than none.

If many additional sheets are needed, the spine of the scrapbook may not accommodate the extra pages. Scrapbooks that are too large, over-stuffed with objects (anything that exceeds the capacity of the binding) may need to be separated into parts, and either wrapped or boxed in sections to keep fragile items and brittle paper from falling apart.

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Photo: Ohio History Connection

For albums with pages that are falling apart or otherwise in bad condition (bugs, mold, etc.) it may be wise to document the pages through scanning, photocopying, or photographing, and then remove as many items as possible and preserve them individually. Documenting the original order and other details of the pages preserves the context of items and the overall creation of the scrapbook, especially if there are notations or other items to preserve that cannot be removed easily. One method for removing old photos from paper and magnetic pages (sticky, striped backing), very gently saw back and forth with fine, waxed dental floss. 

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These procedure are great tips for preserving your own scrapbooks, however removing items involves tools, patience, and a steady hand. The first rule of thumb with archival materials is to “do no harm.” If you aren’t sure what to do or aren’t comfortable with some of the more aggressive techniques, simply stabilizing your scrapbook is best (see interleaving and wrapping). If you are more daring, practice on something you aren’t attached to first.

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