BPG Scrapbooks

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Scrapbook opening showing stickers, original pencil artwork, and pasted-in clippings. MARBL Collection, Emory University. Photo taken by Kim Norman.

Book and Paper Group Wiki > Book Conservation Wiki > Scrapbooks

This wiki page was created in 2014-2016 by the compilers listed below as a place to collect and disseminate information about conserving and preserving scrapbooks. The information is intended for conservation professionals who already have a solid grounding in general preservation issues. This page discusses nature of scrapbooks and their preservation challenges, rehousing & encapsulation, digitization, and an annotated bibliography. Please send corrections and updates to the compilers, or if you are a registered user of the AIC wiki, you are welcome to edit the chapter.

Wiki Compilers: Ann Frellsen, Katherine Kelly, Kim Norman, Jennifer Hain Teper
Wiki Contributors: Bexx Caswell-Olson, Suzy Morgan, please add your name here

Copyright 2020. The Book and Paper Group Wiki is a publication of the Book and Paper Group of the American Institute for Conservation. It is published as a convenience for the members of the Book and Paper Group. Publication does not endorse nor recommend any treatments, methods, or techniques described herein. There is an ongoing project to update the BPG Wiki. We welcome contributions and feedback. If you would like to get involved in this effort, please contact the wiki team at [email protected].

Preservation Challenges of Scrapbooks

Scrapbooks pose one of the biggest preservation and conservation challenges for libraries, archives, and museums for a variety of reasons, but are also often among their most prized possessions. Scrapbooks, by their very nature, are unique historical objects created by an individual or group to document a particular time, an organization or person's life, or a particular perspective. Given their unique historical perspective paired with their frequently creative layout and the often fascinating materials held within them, it is no wonder that scrapbooks are a very high preservation priority for the institutions that hold then and of high exhibit and research value. However, their often fragile state makes safe exhibit and handling difficult. While full conservation treatment of scrapbooks is relatively rare due to their inherent complexity, many institutions do care for their historical scrapbook collections in a variety of ways, including stabilization, enclosures, and digitization.
Scrapbooks can hold a wide variety of materials, not just papers and photos. Brown Scrapbook, University Archives, University of Illinois. Photo credit: Emily F. Shaw
Brittle scrapbook pages fracturing from a post binding. Lewis T. Gregory Scrapbook, 1909-1913 Scrapbook, University Archives, University of Illinois. Photo credit: Laura Larkin.

Traditionally, scrapbooks have been manufactured using low quality materials, most notably the prolific use of high-lignin content, ground wood pulp paper. The inherent vice of these materials leads to rapid deterioration and embrittlement of the support pages. These challenges are only exacerbated by the myriad of contents attached to the pages of scrapbooks (letters, news clippings, cards, photographs being most common, but also often including mementos including natural rubber and latex, felt, leather, textiles, plastics, and even food and tobacco products) and the range of attachment methods used to hold them to the pages.

Typical Physical Problems Encountered in Scrapbooks

Embrittled Pages Many historic scrapbooks suffer from severely embrittled pages. This is due largely to the inherent vice of the poor quality sulfited mechanical wood pulp fiber used to make most scrapbook pages. As the paper ages, like any poor quality paper, it becomes increasingly acidic and overtime, embrittles. One unique characteristic of scrapbooks papers, however, is the widespread use of black paper. This paper was used primarily for aesthetic reasons for contrast with the photos and papers included on the page. However, the black of the papers also serves to mask the gradual discoloration of the scrapbook papers, leading users to miss the visual queues of discoloration common to brittle paper.

Failure of adhesives on scrapbook pages. YMCA Scrapbook, Box 4, University Archives, University of Illinois. Photo credit: Emily F. Shaw
Deterioration of Adhesion Mechanisms and Detachment of Adhered Materials Materials have been attached to scrapbook pages in just about every fashion imaginable. While the most popular materials used are glues and tapes, items have been pinned, stapled, sewn, strapped, tethered to name only a few. Overall, the failure of attachment of materials leads to loss of context (i.e. where was an item within the scrapbook or on a particular page and how does that related to ones' ability to interpret the original intent of the scrapbook's creator?) From a collection management standpoint, it created an object with more complicated housing and handling requirements. Most often, detachment occurs because of the mechanical failure of the attachment method. Glues age and become brittle, tapes lose tack, photo corners tear, or metal pins or staples rust and break (or rust through the paper they are holding). In some cases, most commonly with pressure sensitive adhesive tapes, subsequent damage during the deterioration of these materials, such as oozing adhesives from under pressure sensitive tape carriers, can also cause damage to adjacent materials through physical transfer and staining. While proper storage can slow down this deterioration, the eventual failure of poor quality adhesives is inevitable.

Acid burn on adjacent materials. Lewis T. Gregory Scrapbook, 1909-1913 Scrapbook, University Archives, University of Illinois. Photo credit: Jennifer H. Teper
Foodstuffs (a lollipop) held in a scrapbook. University Archives, University of Illinois. Photo credit: Laura Larkin

Damaging Attached Materials What makes scrapbooks historically and visually interesting is the wide variety of materials that can be enclosed in them, however, this variety can also cause problems. Materials may off gas or transfer acids, such as in the rapid deterioration of newspaper clippings, or may adversely affect one another through direct contact, such as a highly acidic suede binding pressed against less acidic papers, deteriorated rubbers and plastics found in balloons, rubber bands, and celluloids, or other unstable materials, such as soft waxes or oily materials that can stain pages. In some cases, materials enclosed may be seen as risks for other reasons, such as foodstuffs and animal and plant specimens that can attract insects and mold.

Page Detachment The last most common preservation concern with historic scrapbooks is the detachment of pages from the binding structure. This is most often caused by a combination of the poor quality acidic pages of the scrapbook becoming brittle over time, combined with handling and the stress along the gutter edge of the page from the inflexibility of the most common scrapbook binding structures - those of side lacing and post binding.

Long Term Care and Treatment Approaches

Due to the research value and fragility of scrapbooks, it is no surprise that these items often show up on a conservator's bench. Due to the complexity of damage, however, a simple and straight forward treatment is often not possible. While item-level full treatment of scrapbooks are undertaken, they are the minority. In many cases, conservators rely on improving storage conditions, protective enclosures, digitization, and more careful handling to preserve these valuable artifacts for the future. The following flowchart is intended to guide conservators as they consider what to do with scrapbook collections. The list starts with the most essential actions and proceeds through more specialized options.

Assessment and Planning for Scrapbook Conservation

Assessment and Planning for Scrapbook Conservation
General assessment
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Start with a general assessment of the facility where the collections are kept. This will reveal the first action items, e.g. the need to control the environment or catalog the collection.
Collection assessment
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Identify collections that include scrapbooks. Consult with curators to assign priorities based on use and value. This will help identify collection-based needs such as improving access through digitization, use with foam supports in the reading room, or storage by designating oversized shelving. The Preservation Challenges of Scrapbooks are described above.
Item-level assessment
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Factors that may influence decision-making include a conservator's evaluation of condition, treatment needs, and rehousing needs as well as a curator's evaluation of research importance and anticipated use. Quantitative measures of these needs and risks will allow you to schedule, prioritize, and budget for further action. The Annotated Bibliography section has links to published descriptions of this type of survey.
Isolate extremely damaging materials
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Scrapbooks, by their nature, include a surprising variety of materials. If your collection includes food, moldy materials, or active pest infestations, these problems should be immediately addressed through removal or isolation.
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Often, the most cost effective solution for these challenging objects is to rehouse them in custom-fitted archival enclosures that keep the parts together, allow them to be shelved and moved without causing further damage, and protect them from light, dust, and pests. Options are detailed in the section on Rehousing & Encapsulation.
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Full treatment is generally reserved for the highest priority items or for items that cannot be otherwise accessed. Stabilization may be the most appropriate choice for the majority of the collection.
Reformat Reformatting (digitization or facsimile) can reduce handling of fragile originals and allow for greater access to the content. Scrapbooks are an example of how reformatting cannot replace the experience of using the original object. Conservation can greatly facilitate content capture during reformatting. Read more in the section on Digitization of Scrapbooks.

Rehousing & Encapsulation

This section contains descriptions of rehousing and encapsulation solutions specifically tailored to scrapbooks. For more general solutions, please refer to the Wiki pages on Housings and Encapsulation. For links to other published resources, please consult the Annotated Bibliography.

Modifying Standard Size Boxes

One of the first and easiest ways to protect fragile historic scrapbooks is to store them in archival quality enclosures, most frequently a commercially produced, metal edged, drop-spine box made of high-quality lignin free, buffered board. These boxes (or any custom-made box of similar quality materials) create a desirable micro-climate, physically protect the scrapbooks from light and dust, and serve to contain any loose bits that could otherwise become separated from the object. However, pre-made boxes of standard sizes often do not fit the scrapbooks snugly, and can lead to dangerous shifting within the box when items are removed from the shelf. It is therefore advisable to modify the interior of the boxes with crumpled archival tissue or custom spacers to better support the scrapbook inside the box.

These instructions give directions for creating simple spacers to outfit the interior of a drop spine metal edge box to snugly house a smaller scrapbook.

Custom Housing Solutions

A custom sized box is the best choice for fitting a scrapbook snugly without requiring excessive shelf space. A style that works well for scrapbooks and can be made without specialized equipment is the corrugated clamshell box (also called a corrugated drop spine box or pizza box). There is an AIC Wiki page with instructions for making a corrugated clamshell box and a similar set of instructions for making a Corrugated Drop Spine Box from the Department of Preservation and Conservation at Syracuse University. There are a variety of other options for creating custom-sized enclosures on the Housings page of the AIC Wiki. Fragile scrapbooks may also benefit from support boards to facilitate handling.

Another option is to have a box made to order by a commercial box-maker using archival materials. Some commercial book binderies provide this service.


Another good option for scrapbooks is encapsulation of each page and rebinding into a post binding structure. This allows a fragile scrapbook to be handled as a bound structure. The BPG Wiki page on Encapsulation has a section on post bindings of this type, and the Scrapbooks Annotated Bibliography lists several publications that describe innovative solutions for creating this structure without a welding machine or if you need to accommodate folded objects.

Conservation Treatment

Ultraviolet-induced visible fluorescence, showing the location of adhesive residue from detached newsprint clippings. Image by Bexx Caswell-Olson

Full treatment is generally reserved for the highest priority items or for items that cannot be otherwise accessed. Stabilization may be the most appropriate choice for the majority of the collection.


Scrapbook opening showing stickers, original pencil artwork, and pasted-in clippings. MARBL Collection, Emory University. Photo taken by Kim Norman.

This section was originally adapted from the 2014 article in the Book and Paper Group Annual 33, "Scraps of Memories, Shards of Time: Preserving the African American Scrapbook Collection of Emory University Libraries, a Save America's Treasures Grant Project," by Ann Frellsen, Kim Norman, and Brian Methot. That article describes project planning, staffing, conservation work, and digitization of fifty-one scrapbooks.

This wiki article has distilled the most relevant details on digitizing scrapbooks from that article, and we hope that others will add their own procedures, suggestions and comments as technology and standard practices evolve. For more general solutions, please refer to the BPG Wiki page on Imaging and Digitization. For links to other published resources, please consult the Annotated Bibliography below.

The Challenges of Digitizing Scrapbooks

As discussed above scrapbooks come with a variety of preservation and handling challenges, and these challenges complicate any attempt to digitize them. Due to their personal nature, no two books are alike nor can they be treated or handled in the same way, so a variety of techniques and supplies are necessary to ensure safe handling while getting the best image.

Scrapbooks are constructed from diverse materials and attachment methods that have suffered from usage and time, so conservation treatment is almost always a necessary part of any digitization project. Image capture and conservation treatment may need to be done in stages that reveal elements of the scrapbook in disbound/disassembled states as well as after the book has been rebound/reconstructed, so careful collaboration is necessary between conservation and digitization staff. All involved should understand that digitizing can be 'hard usage' on a scrapbook, and that some damage may be expected as a result of the process.

A primary reason to digitize a scrapbook is to create an accessible digital image library that will provide future users a first point of access to an otherwise fragile or deteriorating scrapbook. By using the digital images first, rather than handling the physical item, the life of a scrapbook is prolonged. Ideally, the final digital presentation should attempt to replicate the experience of using the original scrapbook, an experience that changes from one scrapbook to another.

Safe Handling During Digitization

Each scrapbook needs a creatively tailored system in preparation and support in order to ensure the highest quality images are captured. Book cradles, sheets of glass or Plexiglass, weights in all shapes and sizes, and rope weights can help support, position, and flatten scrapbook elements to get the best possible image while protecting the fragile original. Some useful equipment is listed below. Conservators in the Emory University project experimented with rare earth magnets, but generally found that they caused distracting shadows.

Project Planning and Communication

Detailed planning work should include calculating the time (and cost) needs for the entire digitizing process - from including the time it takes to adjust the camera (which might be necessary for every item on every page), to image capture and to processing files.

Developing file naming conventions or schema and locating enough [expandable] data storage to accommodate the huge amount of files and information created by digitizing scrapbooks needs to be part of the planning. At all times, the process details should be documented, especially noting any changes and improvements so they can be repeated.

It is also important to have a clear sense of how the digital images are to be used in the future, i.e., is the digitization process for documentation only, or is there an intention/hope to provide researchers access to the files? Knowing what front-end software will be used/needed or at the very least, how the images are intended to be served up (a page-turning application?) will inform and shape the entire project.

Scrapbooks may require stabilization repairs before being digitized. The Emory team did not anticipate the high frequency of needing immediate treatments for problems found during the digitization process, though the initial condition assessment was thorough. But conservators see through different eyes. For example, a side-sewn pamphlet could not open enough to reveal all of the content for optimal digitization and needed its threads snipped (and later re-sewn). The ability to request on-the-spot treatments was crucial to project efficiency, so as not to disrupt an image capture session.

Scrapbooks may require additional digitization after conservation treatment, if hidden information is revealed. At Emory, if the conservation treatment dramatically changed the original structure, those specific scrapbooks were reimaged to capture the final bound product. These second (or potentially third) rounds of digital capture make for a much more time-consuming project than originally planned.

Thus the need for developing clear lines of communication between all involved departments is most critical. A workflow spreadsheet accessible online and regularly updated by each Emory team/department was an invaluable tool for tracking a scrapbook’s location and stage in the process.

Cross training between Digitization and Conservation teams is extremely beneficial, not only to ensure staff have proper care and handling instruction for fragile materials, but also fully understand best practices for capture and metadata procedures.

Re-associating loose items, separating glued stacks of paper, lifting photographs for hidden information, and whether to reformat a very fragile scrapbook into a post-bound album are examples of decisions that should be made by all stakeholders.

Digitization and the Scrapbook Experience

Retaining the original experience of using a scrapbook, seeing how the creator organized and assembled the materials is crucial to understanding the story being told. Thus digital capture of every facet of the contents is necessary, not just noting where something lies on the page, but also conveying information that would have required user interaction -- to remove a letter from its envelope, open a greeting card, lift a flap, unfold a large newspaper article, or otherwise see what has been obscured. There are also invaluable benefits to thorough imaging, such as being able to capture handwritten information like names, dates, or other contextual information hidden on the backs of items. And of course, an important aspect of digitization is documenting the ephemeral and ‘single use’ items typically found in scrapbooks - materials that were never meant to last and will certainly deteriorate, such as ticket stubs, napkins, dried flora, newspaper clippings, etc. Even the tape used to adhere an object can be an important artifact if it has information written on the carrier’s surface.

In order to capture as much of the original experience of using a scrapbook, the Emory project team had to decide how to deal with the various stages of completion found in the scrapbook collection. This included random and sometimes whole sections of blank pages and loose items tucked into gutters. The sections of blank pages were omitted, though blank pages were included if it helped to preserve the order of the creator. Loose or orphaned items were separated out of the albums and put into folders with indications of their former location. Once digitized, Emory chose to place those image files at the end of that scrapbook’s image family. Though certainty of location was unclear, it was important to document that the creator had included those items.

Suggested Workflow

  1. Assessment
    A conservation review of the scrapbook’s condition prior to digital capture determines if prior stabilization is needed, and what method(s) might be needed to flatten pages or objects.

    A close working relationship between Digitization and Conservation team members is beneficial, because it is common to discover a need for additional and immediate conservation work to happen “Now,” e.g., loosen or free stuck items, unfold brittle paper, remove staples, etc.

  2. Item Identification and Tracking
    Log entry for scrapbook digitized by Emory University

    Each scrapbook must be tracked through the digitization process (and any short trips to Conservation documented). In the Emory University project, every scrapbook received a log entry that detailed each item’s information (creator name, date, manuscript collection name, etc.) along with all technical data, including the camera’s settings, position of lights, and processing information, as well as any notes about the scrapbook.

  3. Image Capture
    Lighting should be even overall and minimize shadows created by neighboring items, pages, or gutters, which could potentially obscure information. If there are missing areas in a page being shot, it is helpful to place neutral paper behind the hole(s) to prevent confusion from the adjacent page information showing through. In order to ensure the page is as parallel to the camera lens as possible, clear acrylic or glass can be used to gently flatten and minimize any creases or buckling.

    Each image should include a ruler and a gray scale or color chart to ensure correct color and white balance.
    Ruler and gray scale card included in image.

  4. File Naming of Images
    File naming conventions should follow established best practices[1], but the multiple layers of scrapbooks can confound simple file naming conventions. At Emory University, staff devised a custom image file naming schema to handle the unique structure of each book. Each image file was named according to its corresponding location in the scrapbook (see Table 1).

  5. Quality Control and Processing
    Archival and production file images.
    Once every page and each item is fully captured, the files should undergo a rigorous quality control (QC) check and then final processing into the various file type formats required for use and long-term preservation.

    The QC process compares every digital image against each page and item in the scrapbook to ensure that images are clear and everything was accurately captured, as well as named. All images should meet the same quality standards for focus, color and white balance, as well as lighting consistency. The Emory project ran an additional QC via Golden Thread software that checked each image’s color charts for color accuracy, sharpness, and overall image quality.

    Emory project staff chose to create the following file types from the original master files, each having a different purpose. The camera RAW (.MOS format) files were first converted to 400 dpi TIFFs, and then each image processed into two versions:
    * the Archival file shows the entire page, including the ruler, grayscale and color target, named with the extension _ARCH;
    * the Production file image is cropped tightly around the primary page or individual item on each page, and named with the extension _PROD.

    Metadata can be attached to and edited in the RAW file at anytime. After an image is processed metadata can be attached as a “sidecar” file. Using a standardized file-naming schema consistently insures all image files are well organized and ‘packaged’ for archiving.

  6. File Management and Storage
    All digital files should be uploaded to an archival network storage server, issued Archival Resource Keys (ARKs), and Digital Masters database metadata records. They should also be backed-up on an external hard drive, a networked drive, and on a monitored and secured off-site server. Saving and securing multiple copies of each file provides for the most reliable backup system. The Emory files were also uploaded into a Digital Asset Management System (DAMS).
Table 1. File Naming Scheme used by Emory University

Each name had four parts separated with underscores: P0000_I0000_P0000_BP (or) LI, with each section referring to a position.

EMU digital images naming convention 2.jpg
  • P0000_ refers to the Primary image of each [whole] Page of the scrapbook. Each page may contain several items;
  • I0000_ refers to Items attached on the page. Each image is a shot of every individual item;
  • If an item has more than one side or has multiple pages, the second P0000_ refers to each shot of every side or page.
  • _BP refers to a Bound Page (ex., a page of a pamphlet), (or) _LI refers to a Loose Item - any item that is not attached to the primary page, e.g., a loose letter page inside an envelope.

Equipment, Software, and Materials

If at all possible, purchase equipment and software from a reliable, local vendor, who can provide training, support, and troubleshooting for using the equipment and software, as well as prompt on-site service. It is much easier to have face-to-face conversations when training or trying to resolve problems, rather than remotely.

Example of Equipment and Software Used in a Digitization Project

Equipment needs will vary by project and institution. In 2011-2014, Emory University used the equipment listed in Table 2 to digitize a collection of scrapbooks.

Table 2. Equipment and Software used by Emory University
  • Macintosh desktop with 12GB Ram
  • 1TB internal hard drive space: for image processing
  • 26” LCD Cinema display
  • 2TB external hard drive: for image storage
  • Capture One Pro: control camera operation
  • Photoshop: image adjustment, file processing, and metadata creation
  • Golden Thread: image quality control
File Management and Storage a networked campus drive, a monitored and secured off-site server, and a Digital Asset Management System (DAMS)
EMU Phase One Camera cropped.jpg
Phase One Medium Format Camera body with a Mamiya Leaf Aptus II-12 digital back, capable of capturing 80 megapixel images. It contains a full-frame CCD sensor, which allows for exceptional detail and a large capture frame.
Lenses 45mm and 80mm (used for oversize materials and double page spreads)
Lighting Two free-standing banks of LED lighting
Copy Stand Oversized, adjustable 60” column (maximum camera height) with a 30" x 40" vacuum table base

Other Materials

Weights and Cradles
  • UV coated Museum glass and clear acrylic sheets, 1/10 inch - [standard framing grade], of various sizes
    • The different weights of these optically clear materials hold wavy pages or curled materials down and in plane, allowing for better image capture.
    • Non-glare is NOT recommended due to lack of clarity.
  • Various small and light weights, including rope weights [lead pellets covered with unbleached muslin]
  • Book cradles and other materials to support volumes’ weak bindings, page foldouts, etc.:
    • Ethafoam wedges
    • Binder’s board
  • Small rare earth magnets
Cleaning supplies
  • Canned air
  • Very soft, non-scratching cloths
  • Dusters and anti-static brushes
  • Gray scale/color separation guides
  • Non-reflective metal framing square - 16” x 24”
  • Neutral grey background paper
  • Light meter- to ensure even illumination

Annotated Bibliography

This bibliography is intended to point users to great resources on the preservation, conservation, and reformatting of scrapbooks. Online links should be provided wherever possible, the blurb should explain the focus of the resource, and the list should be short. This bibliography is not meant to be exhaustive, but rather a list of the most relevant and useful sources. The citation style follows the BPG Reference and Bibliography Protocols.

Introductory Resources and Resources for the General Public

Fox, Lisa. 2003. "Care of Scrapbooks". Conservation Services Notes. Missouri State Archives. Accessed October 9, 2014.

Covers the basics of storage and handling, and offers a more detailed exploration of rehousing and treatment options. Some discussion of reformatting options.

Hanthorn, Ivan. 1996. "Helpful Tips for Preserving Your Precious Documents & Memorabilia: Tips on Preserving Scrapbooks". Archival Products NEWS 4 (2). Accessed October 9, 2014.

Brief, basic advice for handling and rehousing.

Image Permanence Institute. 2003. Scrapbook Retailer's Science of Scrapbooking Series.

A collection of five articles written by IPI for a newsletter for scrapbookers. A good introduction to the science behind degradation and what steps people can take at home to choose good supplies and make scrapbooks last.

Ogden, Sherelyn. 1995. "Experience and Examples in the Preservation of Scrapbooks and Albums." Advances in Preservation & Access 2. Ed. Barbara Buckner Higginbotham. Medford, NJ: Learned Information, Inc: 339-352.

A thoughtful discussion on the similarities and differences between albums and scrapbooks in their public perception, content, and conservation challenges. Causes for deterioration, evaluation of value (informational vs. artifactual), and security are also discussed, followed by a number of examples. The article ends with a focus on preventive measures that are crucial for the preservation of both kinds of objects.

Rutherston, Jane. 1999. "Victorian Album Structures". The Paper Conservator. 23: 13-25. DOI: 10.1080/03094227.1999.9638613. Accessed March 16, 2015 (with subscription).

Discussion of the development of commercially produced scrapbooks and photograph albums, with a a particular focus on how structures and materials contribute to deterioration . Album structures are discussed in four categories: sewn, guarded leaf (e.g. cartes-de-visite albums), adhesive (e.g. caoutchouc), and loose leaf mechanical binding (e.g. post bindings). Various methods of compensation, end paper construction, and leaf hinging are diagrammed.

Zucker, Barbara F. 1991, rev. 1998. "Preservation Basics: Preservation of Scrapbooks and Albums". Library of Congress. Accessed October 9, 2014.

Basic advice on accessioning, storing, and handling scrapbooks for librarians and archivists.

Treatment and Rehousing Solutions

American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works. Conservation of Scrapbooks and Albums: Postprints of the Book and Paper Group/Photographic Materials Group Joint Session at the 27th Annual Meeting of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works. AIC, Washington, DC 1999. (print copy available for sale in the AIC store)

  • Accounts of the West (abstract) / Boal, Gillian
A short introduction as to the difficulties that scrapbooks and photo albums present to conservators, but also why they are important to preserve.
  • Images of the Southwest: a tourist album / Laura Downey
A case study of the conservation treatment of one album that has interesting ethical and legal issues due to the inclusion of sensitive images of the Hopi Nation, who wished to restrict access to the images in order to take more control over their cultural and intellectual property.
  • Historical photo albums and their structures / Richard Horton
Identification and description of album type structures that were commonly made and used between the mid-19th c. and mid-20th c.
This glossary consolidates terms and definitions from seven other recognized sources and identifies the author from which each term originated.
  • Champs délicieux: an album of twelve Rayographs by Man Ray / Sylvie Pénichon
A case study of treatment and preservation in which high profile photographs, which had been removed for exhibition purposes, were reintegrated back into their original album in an attempt to “make sure that these objects are kept as close as possible to their original form.”
  • Conservation considerations for a Thomas Eakins photograph album / Mary Schobert
A case study of albums in an archive setting that are required for both research and/or exhibition purposes. The practical solution was to sleeve each leaf in an appropriate plastic sleeve and then box them in their original order.
  • The structure's the thing! Problems in the repair of nineteenth-century stiff-paged photograph albums / Mary Wootton, Terry Boone & Andrew Robb
Three case studies illustrating more invasive conservation treatments done on album bindings, which breakdown as a result of poor-quality binding, mounting, and repair materials. The major takeaway is that “albums are constructed and behave quite differently from the traditional book with flexible pages. The methodology of repairing unsewn, stiff board structures is counter-intuitive to traditional bookbinding practice.” The article also touches on the use of surrogates as a way to reduce theft of particularly small and unique items.
  • Interim report on the HRHRC photograph album survey:
  • Nineteenth-century photograph albums: structure, condition, and treatments / Olivia Primanis
Good background information, images, and descriptions of many different types of 19th c. bindings at the HRC.
  • Developing a conservation survey database for photograph albums / Meg Brown
Describes the translation of the Harry Ransom Center's manual format survey form for their Photograph Album Survey Project to a computerized database.
  • Photographs in albums: observations, treatment comments, and some survey results / Barbara N. Brown
The topics addressed in this report include photographic processes found in the albums, presentation of photographs in the albums, condition of the photographs, some treatments for photographs and albums, and housings for photographs.
  • Glossary of terms for the photograph album survey / Meg Brown, compiler.
The survey form and its accompanying glossary developed for the HRC.

Brewer, Allison. 2013. "Stabilization of a Scrapbook from the Veterans History Project". Conservation Treatment Highlights from Library of Congress, Conservation Division webpage. Accessed March 16, 2015.

Description of project to stabilize a disbound scrapbook prior to digitization. This article is of particular interest for its description of polyester encapsulation that accommodates scrapbook structures. One page is encapsulated with a flap to allow a pasted-in folio to open, and another oversize page is encapsulated folded. Spot welding is used to hold irregularly shaped pages.

Hebert, Henry. 2011. "Sleeves and Posts: A Rehousing Option for Scrapbooks". Archival Products NEWS 16 (4). Accessed October 9, 2014.

Description of a treatment where a scrapbook was disbound, the pages placed in polyester L-sleeves, and bound into a post binding. The advantages of this treatment are its low-cost, its use of polyester when one does not have access to a polyester welder, and the ability to remove each page reasonably easily from the structure.

Ogden, Sherelyn. 1991. "Preservation Options for Scrapbook and Album Formats". Book and Paper Group Annual 10. Accessed October 9, 2014.

Good overview for a conservation audience. Discusses aspects that should be considered when developing treatment proposals, such as the artifactual integrity of the scrapbook vs. the importance of the individual elements, the desire to prevent loss or theft of small elements, anticipated use, and the cost of treatment. Examples are given for different approaches to treatment and rehousing.

O'Loughlin, Elissa and Linda S. Stiber. 1992. "A Closer Look at Pressure Sensitive Adhesive Tapes: Update on Conservation Strategies" Postprints, Institute for Paper Conservation Manchester, U.K.

Smith, Merrily. 1985. "Scrapbooks in the Library of Congress". In Preserving America's Performing Arts, ed. B. Cohen-Stratyner and B. Kneppers. New York: Theatre Library Association. 73-77.

A discussion of the preservation challenges presented by scrapbooks. The author observes that, "The diversity in type and condition of materials makes it very difficult to treat the scrapbook as a unit" and that the essential question curators (and conservators) are faced with is whether to preserve the artifactual integrity of the scrapbook. Three different examples of scrapbook treatments are described. In each case, compromises were made between the scrapbook's original organization and the need to preserve and provide access to the content. The first treatment was of a photograph album with 94 photographs mounted with pressure sensitive tape on brittle paper. The tape was removed and the photographs were encapsulated in window mat pages and rebound into a new scrapbook format. The second treatment was of 6 scrapbooks with photographs, newspaper clippings, and other materials. The scrapbook was microfilmed to record its organization, then disassembled and the parts filed separately. The last treatment was of a very deteriorated and frequently consulted scrapbook about Harry Houdini. This scrapbook was disassembled, the contents treated, and a new assemblage of the materials was made to allow the contents (or facsimile versions) to be served to the public.

Tedone, Melissa. 2014. "Preserving Scrapbooks". YouTube video of a webinar created by Association for Library Collections & Technical Services (ALCTS).

Hour long video discussing scrapbooks, the terminology of the bindings, supports, and attachments, preservation problems, and basic stabilization options. Very good, specific instructions on interleaving, encapsulation, and reattachment methods. (00:00 to 28:24) Extended discussion with examples of decision-making, considering factors such as condition, inherent vice, collection priorities and size, and available conservation and digitization capabilities (28:25 to 44:50). The handout and the Q&A responses (48:30 to end) are also available on the ALCTS webinar page.

Teper, Jennifer H. and Emily F. Shaw. 2007. "Planning for Conservation of Archival Scrapbook Collections". Archival Products NEWS 14 (4). Accessed October 9, 2014.

Describes an item-level conservation survey of almost 500 scrapbooks and the treatment that followed. Covers survey methodology, simple cost-effective treatment steps, and rehousing options.

Teper, Jennifer H. 2009. "Assessing and Stabilizing Archival Scrapbooks". Discussion from the Archives Conservation Discussion Group 2009. Book and Paper Group Annual 28.

"Preserving Your Treasures: How to Remove Photos from a Sticky Album". Video post blog from the Smithsonian Institution Archive.

Short video demonstrating how to remove photographs from "magnetic" photo albums with dental floss.


ARL Preservation of Research Library Materials Committee. 2004. "Recognizing Digitization as a Preservation Reformatting Method (PDF)". Association of Research Libraries. Accessed July 1, 2014.

Kemp, Janien. 2016. “How Digitization Integrates in the World of Archives Preservation.” Journal of the Institute of Conservation 39 (1): 57-63.

A description of how the 2007 Amsterdam City Archive's digitization initiative positively affected the conservation strategy of their collection. The goals were to make their materials available to a wider audience while also preserving the collection. As a result, they developed a set of priorities, which includes the digitization of documents that are suffering from “autonomous decay,” fragile/oversized objects that can be easily damaged through handling, and items that have been requested by customers and have been deemed safe to scan. The decision-making process for the various kinds of scanning paths are illustrated with real collection examples. It ends with a discussion of the viewpoints and values that archivists and conservators share and differ in, with a final comment stating that “digitization is not only appropriate for larger access issues but also suitable as an indirect preservation tool.”

Frellsen, Ann, Kim Norman, and Brian Methot. 2014. "Scraps of Memories, Shards of Time: Preserving the African American Scrapbook Collection of Emory University Libraries, a Save America's Treasures Grant Project .Book and Paper Group Annual 33. 26-34. Accessed July 5, 2017.

A continuing description of the project discussed in the 2012 Norman article listed below. The presentation of this article at the 2014 AIC Annual meeting was reported on here. This article is of particular interest for its description of the project process, collaboration between conservation and imaging, and conservation decision-making. Equipment and staffing needs are detailed.

Norman, Kim Knox. 2012. "Preservation of Emory University's African American Scrapbook Collection". Archival Products NEWS 17 (3). Accessed October 9, 2014.

Description of Save America’s Treasures grant project to conserve and digitize a collection of 34 scrapbooks. Discusses how the conservation and digitization actions were focused on maintaining the "scrapbook experience", and how the conservation and imaging staff worked closely together to achieve those goals.

Davis, Bethany. 2015. "Preserving Vaudeville and Early-Film History at the University of Iowa". Archival Products NEWS 19 (2). Accessed February 11, 2015.

Description of the early stages of an NEH grant-funded project to stabilize, digitize and rehouse 150 scrapbooks, many of which were filled with newspaper clippings. Includes images of specially designed book cradles for imaging.

News, Blog Posts, and Ongoing Projects

Gloor, Jessamy. 2014. "42nd Annual Meeting – Photographic Materials Session, May 30, “Preserving Ernest Hemingway’s Photograph Albums and Scrapbooks at the Finca Vigía,” by Monique Fischer and M. P. Bogan". Conservators Converse blog. Accessed March 3, 2016.

Discusses treatment and digitization of scrapbooks under circumstances of limited supplies and funding. This talk was presented at a 2014 AIC Annual Meeting PMG Session, and may eventually be available as part of Topics in Photographic Preservation.

Martin, Julie. 2013. "Sitting with Woody: Preservation of Guthrie Archives Collections". Post on NEDCC website. Accessed October 9, 2014.

Discusses preservation planning and grant application for, and then conservation and digitization of six scrapbooks.

Texas State Library and Archives Commission. "Treating a 1950s TSLAC Scrapbook" Blog post on July 14, 2014. Accessed October 9, 2014.

Blog post on single item treatment of scrapbook.

Kahn, Eve M. 2011. "Saving Scrapbooks From the Scrapheap" New York Times, August 4. Accessed January 2, 2015.


  1. Bogus, Ian, George Blood, Robin L. Dale, Robin Leech, and David Mathews. 2013. "Minimum Digitization Capture Recommendations: Appendix I: File Naming Conventions for Digital Collections". The Association for Library Collections and Technical Services, Preservation and Reformatting Section. Accessed January 22, 2016.
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