According to the Hobby Industry Association contemporary scrapbookers spent an estimated $2.5 billion dollars on supplies last year. Thatâ€™s a lot of stickers! The roots of this booming industry are centuries old. In fact so many men, women and children kept albums the chances are good you have one in your attic. Take a peek into the pages of an ancestral scrapbook to learn a little more about the people on your pedigree chart.
Thereâ€™s a lot more going on between the covers than paste and colored papers. You might discover Great Aunt Beaâ€™s gorgeous layouts could land her a spot as Memory Makers Magazine Master and that Grandpa Joe loved flying. Follow the clues, i.e. the trail of memorabilia collected in the album and soon youâ€™ll be able to sit down to read it like a best-selling novel.Â A few questions will get you started.
Who Created It?
Letâ€™s start with the basics. Hopefully your scrapbook contains a name. If not, an unsigned scrapbook is a lot like an unidentified photograph. Youâ€™ll have to look for the answer.Â The contents of the pages provide hints. If all the pages are filled with pressed flowers, household cleaning tips, product advertisements and valentines then it was probably created by a young woman. An album full of kid-themed memorabilia points to a child, but one with news, quotes and business keepsakes might be the pastime of the man of the house. Figuring out the gender of the compiler helps you pinpoint the hobbyist on the family tree.
Narrow down the suspects by looking for clues. Dated programs, invitations and cards supply a time frame for the album to compare to what you know about members of your family.
What’s In It?
Open the album carefully to see whatâ€™s on each page. Every item is a piece of evidence offering insights into the interests and hobbies of the creator while the general layout tells a story. Some people placed material in albums in random order while others spent time arranging their scrapbook for artistic or utilitarian reasons. For instance, a wedding scrapbook Iâ€™ve seen included memorabilia from her bridal shower and a list of gifts. Make a list of names and dates found in the album as well as the type of material. Along the way youâ€™ll gain an awareness of your scrapperâ€™s life and personality.
Look carefully at the beginning and the end of the album. Itâ€™s quite possible that more than one person worked on it. One way to tell is to watch for a change in handwriting. Motherâ€™s and daughters often worked on scrapbooks together. The mother would start it and the daughter would complete it later on.
Todayâ€™s scrapbooks are built to last thanks to manufacturerâ€™s awareness of preservation standards. Unfortunately this wasnâ€™t true before the late twentieth century. The wide range of materials found in scrapbooks-from petals to pictures-make them a preservation nightmare. Poor quality paper, glue, and reactions between items collected such as the stains left by plant material add up to a big problem. In fact, those colored bits of paper called scrap were intended to be disposable not collectible. Before the mid-nineteenth century rag paper made from cotton fibers was common, but most papers from then on consisted of wood pulp. The acid and lignin in those pages cause the paper to yellow and become fragile. When you look at an old scrapbook the corners of the pages may break off and items will fall out due to aging glue.
You need to be cautious about what you do to preserve these old albums. Whatâ€™s good for one type of item may not necessarily be good for another. There are a couple of steps that keep them safe no matter whatâ€™s been collected. First wrap the album in acid and lignin free tissue or a clean 100% cotton cloth like muslin. This will prevent any loose pieces from becoming lost. Then place the album in an acid and lignin free box in an area away from fluctuations of temperature and humidity. You can place sheets of acid and lignin free paper between the pages but the added bulk can break the binding of the album causing more damage.
The first inclination is to take the items off the crumbling page and place them in a new album. Please donâ€™t take the album apart or remove the items from the acid paper yourself. Let a professional conservator handle the process of deacidifying the original pages or removing the items to retain the original order.
Ancestral scrapbooks really do tell a story. Itâ€™s there. All you have to do is find it by researching the bits you find and studying your family history.
Maureen Taylor loves writing about photography and family history.
You can reach her through her website http://www.photodetective.com.