TIPS ON THE SELECTION AND CARE OF SCRAPBOOKS
Since the nineteenth century, people have used scrapbooks to record the intimate details of their daily lives. Like miniature museums, these scrapbooks hold the bits and pieces they have saved to document the most touchingly personal reflections.
The enemy within
Despite their charm, scrapbooks usually serve memory poorly. Most come from art supply, stationery, or photography stores, are made of wooden, cardboard or plastic binders, and harbor harmful chemicals in their adhesives, acidic mounts, and plastic envelopes--chemicals that combine with their hosts to attack the scrapbooks and destroy their contents. To compound the problem, the nature of scrapbooks shortens their life. Pages bend and abrade the documents they hold by being turned often, and the chemical reactions among the various kinds of paper that lie side by side-photographs, newsprint, and so forth--pose serious threats as well. Few archivists recommend the use of scrapbooks for the storage of valuable documents. Most will place the records in folders, store them in properly designed document and photograph cases, and buffer them with tissues or envelopes if necessary. Thus, unless they have value as artifacts, most archivists will discard scrapbooks and place their contents into archival containers to prolong their life.
Despite the drawbacks, many of you are attached to your scrapbook and will want to keep its familiar look and feel. To help you, we have some simple and inexpensive solutions for problems with old scrapbooks, some advice on the purchase of new ones, and a word on the environment you should store them in.
The old scrapbook
Complaint: The acid in the black or once-white paper of your scrapbook has broken down the paper fibers, and your pages are now brittle.
Remedy: Interleave alkaline tissue between the pages and put the scrapbook in a buffered box made to fit. The alkaline buffering in the tissue and box will slow further deterioration and the box will protect your scrapbook from rough handling and keep out light, dust, and dirt.
Complaint: Some newspaper clippings and photographs in your scrapbook are firmly attached to the mounting sheets, but other documents are falling away from the pages.
Remedy: Do nothing to documents that are firmly attached to the mounting sheets, but use archival corner holders to reattach those that are falling away. You can use inert polyester (Mylar D) or alkaline paper to construct the corners yourself or you can purchase ready-made archival-quality corners from a vendor who specializes in archival products.
Complaint: Brown stains have formed around the tape and glue you have used to attach items to the pages in your scrapbook.
Remedy: DO NOT use scotch tape or glue to attach any item to the mounting sheets. The brown stains you see are caused by highly acidic adhesives, which will eventually destroy the paper they touch.
Complaint: The newsprint saved in your scrapbook is disintegrating.
Remedy: DON'T store newsprint as is because the groundwood pulp paper used to make it will eventually destroy your newsprint and all it touches. DO preserve information on newsprint by copying it onto alkaline paper and discarding the original, or, if you must use the original, have it deacidified by a professional or place it between an additional lining of buffered tissue to retard the acid breakdown.
The new scrapbook
DO choose your supplies carefully. You can create an acceptable scrapbook by selecting components from the "Archival Quality" line available from vendors who specialize in archival materials. Construct your scrapbook by using a mylar cover in combination with alkaline or non-buffered pages; select pages with slits or purchase corners of polyester or alkaline paper to hold your documents in place. DON'T use the standard commercially available scrapbooks, especially those with plastic pages and adhesive backings--they are unacceptable for long-term storage.
The storage environment
Unlike documents that are stored within envelopes, folders, and boxes, scrapbooks have little protection. The environment in which they are stored, therefore, is critical to their longevity. A temperature of 70 degrees and a humidity level of 50 percent is ideal, but failing that, keep the temperature and humidity level as constant as possible.
Used with permission from the South Carolina Department of Archives and History.[http://www.colorado.gov/dpa/doit/archives/INCLUDES/bottom.htm]
Last modified June 18, 2003