The Archive Lady: Preserving Family Scrapbooks

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Melissa Barker, The Archive Lady, shares her step-by-step method for preserving family scrapbooks

Sara from New York asks: “I have several old family scrapbooks where the photographs have fallen off the pages. What is the best way to archive these? Should I separate the photos from the albums? Should I try to figure out which photographs go on which pages according to what I think the original might have looked like? Or something else entirely?”

Happy Preservation Week®! From April 25 to May 1, 2021 is American Library Association’s Preservation Week®. Archives and libraries use this annual event to promote the role of our institutions in preserving personal and public collections and treasures. This year’s them is “Preserving Community Archives”. I could not think of a better way to promote Preservation Week® than to answer Sara’s question.

Happy Preservation Week®! From April 25 to May 1, 2021 is American Library Association’s Preservation Week®. Archives and libraries use this annual event to promote the role of our institutions in preserving personal and public collections and treasures. This year’s them is “Preserving Community Archives”. I could not think of a better way to promote Preservation Week® than to answer Sara’s question.

I would advise Sara to NOT separate the photos from the album. If they are falling out of the scrapbook, I would suggest putting them into archival photo sleeves and place them in the front or back of the scrapbook. If it can be determined where the photos should go, put the photos in their archival sleeves in the place where they should go. It can be difficult to figure out the order so placing them in the front or back of the scrapbook is recommended.

Archiving and preserving scrapbooks is quite easy and anyone can do it following these steps:

  1. Digitize each page of the scrapbook. Use a flatbed scanner, digital camera, or an overhead scanner.DO NOT use any kind of a self-feeding scanner or a handheld scanner. These types of scanners could potentially damage the pages or the items pasted to the pages. Make sure to digitize the scrapbook in original order from the first page to the last page. Be sure to label the digitize images and include metadata about each image.
  2. Purchase archival tissue paper. Archival tissue paper can be purchased at any online archival materials store (see list below). It is a good idea to get a size that is about 1/4″ to 1/2″ larger than the scrapbook page. This will ensure that the tissue paper covers the entire scrapbook page. If you have larger pieces of tissue paper, cutting the tissue paper to size is perfectly fine. If there are items coming loose or falling out of the scrapbook, use plastic paper clips to clip them to the page where they belong. DO NOT use any kind of glue to paste the item back into the scrapbook.

Purchase archival tissue paper. Archival tissue paper can be purchased at any online archival materials store (see list below). It is a good idea to get a size that is about 1/4" to 1/2" larger than the scrapbook page. This will ensure that the tissue paper covers the entire scrapbook page. If you have larger pieces of tissue paper, cutting the tissue paper to size is perfectly fine. If there are items coming loose or falling out of the scrapbook, use plastic paper clips to clip them to the page where they belong. DO NOT use any kind of glue to paste the item back into the scrapbook.

Archival tissue between scrapbook pages, Houston County, Tennessee Archives

  1. Place the tissue paper in-between each page of the scrapbook. The tissue paper will act as a shield to protect anything on the pages from bleeding onto or damaging the adjoining page. Also, if any items are falling out of the scrapbook and exposing the glue, the tissue paper will keep the glue from touching items on other pages.
  2. Purchase an archival box that is as close to the size of the scrapbook as possible. The box that is used should be a flat box with a separate lid. Do not use an upright Hollinger box or other box that requires that the scrapbook be stored standing on its end. It is important that all scrapbooks be stored laying down. Place a piece of tissue paper in the bottom of the box, then lay the scrapbook on the tissue paper. If there is still room in the box and the scrapbook is sliding around, crumple up archival tissue paper and tuck it around the scrapbook to secure it in place so it doesn’t move. The scrapbook should fit snuggly so that it doesn’t move around in the box.

Purchase an archival box that is as close to the size of the scrapbook as possible. The box that is used should be a flat box with a separate lid. Do not use an upright Hollinger box or other box that requires that the scrapbook be stored standing on its end. It is important that all scrapbooks be stored laying down. Place a piece of tissue paper in the bottom of the box, then lay the scrapbook on the tissue paper. If there is still room in the box and the scrapbook is sliding around, crumple up archival tissue paper and tuck it around the scrapbook to secure it in place so it doesn't move. The scrapbook should fit snuggly so that it doesn’t move around in the box.

Scrapbook in an archival box, Houston County, Tennessee Archives

  1. Label the box with information about the scrapbook. For instance, “World War II Scrapbook, Belonged to John Jones, 1941-1945”. Store the boxed scrapbook in a cool, dry, and dark place. Keep away from sunlight and handle the scrapbook as least as possible. Consult with the digital images as much as possible so that damage is not done to the original scrapbook from handling.

If you have a question for The Archive Lady, please send them via email and I could use your archival question in an upcoming edition of The Archive Lady column. Melissa Barker, a.k.a. The Archive Lady E-Mail: melissabarker20@hotmail.com

 


Archival Materials Websites

 


Melissa Barker’s 

Scrapbooks! Do you want to know how to find scrapbooks about your ancestors or do you have scrapbooks that you own and would like to know how to preserve them? Get my latest Legacy Family Tree Webinar and QuickGuide:

Scrapbooks! Do you want to know how to find scrapbooks about your ancestors or do you have scrapbooks that you own and would like to know how to preserve them? Get my latest Legacy Family Tree Webinar and QuickGuide:

Scrapbooks: A Genealogist’s Gold Mine
http://legacy.familytreewebinars.com/?aid=1161

Scrapbooks! Do you want to know how to find scrapbooks about your ancestors or do you have scrapbooks that you own and would like to know how to preserve them? Get my latest Legacy Family Tree Webinar and QuickGuide:

PDF Version: http://legacy.familytreewebinars.com/?aid=1413

 


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If you have a question about researching in archives or records preservation for The Archive Lady, send an email with your question to: melissabarker20@hotmail.com

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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