Melissa Barker, aka The Archive Lady, handles a genealogy upcycling question … preserving an agricultural yearbook repurposed as an obituary scrapbook!
Sandra in Minnesota asks: “I was given a book dated 1915. The book is a book of agriculture and of no interest to me or the person who gifted it to me. However, within the pages of this book are newspaper clippings of obituaries mostly. The oldest from 1899 and the newest from 1971. The clippings are glued to the pages of the book. This collection of newspaper clippings helped to make a connection to my Great-Grandfather’s parents, grandparents, etc. I have scanned the clippings and I keep the book in the non-archival box that it came in on a shelf. What would your recommendations be on preserving these newspaper clippings? I am thinking it would be best to tear out the pages and put them in archival safe sheet holders but would appreciate your recommendation.”
Sandra asks a great question and one that is quite unusual. I have answered questions in the past about preserving newspapers clippings, see my previous article here. But this time we need to deal with the book and the fact that the clippings are pasted into the book.
The book the clippings are pasted into is titled Yearbook of the United States Department of Agriculture 1914 and was published in 1915. This book was published by the United States Government as an Annual Report of the Secretary of Agriculture. You can see the entire digitized version of this book on the Internet Archive website here. Sandra is uncertain who owned this book or its significance, but the fact that someone used the book as a sort of scrapbook for these newspapers clippings is significant. As Sandra said, the oldest clipping is from 1899 which tells me that someone had these clippings for 15 years and then decided to paste them in this book.
Sandra has already scanned each clipping to digitally preserve them. This is a great first step and one that I always suggest when undertaking a preservation project of any kind. When digitizing documents and photographs, I recommend using TIFF files and scanning at 300 dpi resolution. Also, be sure to save your digital copies in more than one place and consider uploading them to an online cloud-based storage system. This way, if anything happens to the originals, you can retrieve the digital copy.
Now to deal with the actual book and pasted clippings. In the archive world, a motto of ours is do not do anything you cannot undo. This is true in this preservation project. Sandra suggested tearing out the pages and putting them in archival sleeves. That is a bit destructive and does away with the original order and composition of the artifact. My advice is to leave the book in its original form, with the clippings intact and preserve it as it is.
I suggest placing pieces of archival tissue paper between the pages where the newspaper clippings are located. This will protect the clippings from sticking to each other if the book encounters humidity or moisture. Once that is completed, Sandra should wrap the book in archival tissue paper and place in an archival box that fits the book. If the box is a bit too big for the book, crumple up archival tissue paper and place around the book so it does not move in the box. Then store the box in a cool, dark, and dry place where the temperature and humidity levels do not fluctuate.
One last piece of advice for Sandra that will not only help but also other genealogists. She should make an index of the newspaper clippings in the book. Then share this index with her family or even send a copy to an archive where her ancestors lived. Maybe there is a genealogist out there looking for one of those newspaper clippings in Sandra’s book. I would even share the index and photos on social media. The more we can share our family records, heirlooms, and stories, the more we can connect with cousins and then possibly find more information about our family story.
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Melissa Barker lives in Tennessee Ridge, Tennessee. She is the Houston County (TN) Archivist and a Professional Genealogist. She writes the blog, A Genealogist in the Archives, and has been researching her own family for over 26 years. She lectures, teaches and writes about researching in archives and records preservation.
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