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Scrapbooking Archivally

I've always loved the Edwardian scrapbooks from around the turn of the century: the thin volumed ones bound with solely black paper, photographs held in by little black photo corners, and sometimes names, dates, or places scrawled in white under the photo. There's something romantic about them, and luckily, many have stood the test of time - lasting several generations after the creators are gone.

Scrapbooks essentially morphed out of journaling, becoming more accessible for men and women as printing became more commonplace. The earliest scrapbooks (not necessarily journals) can be considered family Bibles - where important dates were recorded, but scraps of ribbon, clippings, or even locks of hair were kept for safe keeping. Bibles were the source of family history, and were passed from one generation to the next, much like scrapbooks.

Victorian scrapbook

Victorian women popularized die cut and card scrapbooks, while Edwardian women collected name cards and fashion images. At the turn of the 20th century, photo scrapbooks (the iconic black paged beauties) were a popular pastime for the wealthier individuals (those who had the money for a camera, the film, getting it developed, and then had time to spare in order to scrapbook). Scrapbooking also took the form of a collection of recipe clippings, movie star images, or even little bits of ephemera that might have been kept as a memento from an event the individual might have attended.

Bullet Journaling

In my relatively short time of scrapbooking, the craft has morphed yet again into a journaling and record keeping activity (or if you're artistic unlike me - art journaling), since print photos have become almost obsolete. (Just as a side note - I actually still print out all my photos!) If I had more time, this would be a fun way to keep memories, but I'm really bad at making time to scrapbook - so I doubt this would be any different!


Being a collections specialist, I've always been overly conscious of whether the paper I'm buying is actually acid free, or the plastic sleeves are actually chemically inert. I attempt to avoid any sorts of adhesives, for fear of off-gasing, and try to buy only from archival suppliers.

In my earliest scrapbooking days, however, I used the magnetic pages (cardboard pages with rows of adhesive, covered by a protective plastic sheet); I purchased the glue dots and adhesive squares. My ten-year-old self even used non-soluble Elmer's glue to paste photographs to white card stock (those photos are never coming off that paper, unfortunately). Thankfully, I transitioned to plastic sleeves, acid free photo corners, and even got a fancy die cut machine - all of which can still be purchased in the scrapbooking section of craft stores such as Michaels or JoAnn's. Today, I've yet again transitioned from the plastic photo corners to acid-free paper ones, as I'm not convinced the plastic ones are chemically inert.

After a decade, surprisingly not too many of my scrapbooks are chemically altered - including the two magnetic albums and all the glue dots, plastic photo corners, and elmers glue on which I could get my hands. My house is usually never set to optimal museum temperatures (70 F & 50% Rh), my scrapbooks are in a room with lots of sunlight (I have an irrational fear of the dark), and they've all survived a roof collapse very wet and dirty roof collapse - no worse for wear. So, I'd say that if they were going to have any adverse effects from the materials I used (both archival and non-archival), it probably would have happened.

Here's some handy tips to create and store your memories:

  1. Avoid self-adhesive (magnetic) scrapbooks - the adhesive will stain the photos, and you may not be able to remove them from the page!

  2. Use acid free photo corners to keep you items secured to the page. The plastic ones seem to be ok, but the paper kinds, while more noticeable, may be better in the long run for your photographs

  3. Try to find scrapbooks with polypropylene page protectors - not only will it save your photographs in the event of water damage (it did mine), but the polypropylene also won't deteriorate your photographs.

  4. Use glue sparingly, but not for attaching photos to your pages! I use an acid free and xylene free adhesive to attach any die cut lettering.

  5. Stickers, tapes (especially scotch), or other stylistic adhesives should be used sparingly, if at all

  6. Keep books out of sunlight, or if you have the funds, store in archivally safe, acid free boxes

  7. ALWAYS print out or backup your digital photos. And back them up in multiple plaes - technology can fail, even if we think its invincible. Don't just let them sit on your phone. If you accidentally delete them, or your phone gets stolen or hacked - there's no getting those images back. Once they're gone, they're gone.

Whatever your method - whether it's keeping photos loose, saving them in a scrapbook, or creating a record or art journal - make sure to have fun while doing it!

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