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.
- 1 Preservation Challenges of Scrapbooks
- 1.1 Typical Physical Problems Encountered in Scrapbooks
- 1.2 Considerations for Long Term Care and Treatment Approaches
- 2 Assessment and Planning for Scrapbook Conservation Flowchart
- 3 Assessing Condition & Stabilization Options
- 4 Rehousing & Encapsulation
- 5 Conservation Treatment
- 6 Digitization
- 6.1 The Challenges of Digitizing Scrapbooks
- 6.2 Safe Handling During Digitization
- 6.3 Project Planning and Communication
- 6.4 Digitization and the Scrapbook Experience
- 6.5 Suggested Workflow
- 6.6 Equipment, Software, and Materials
- 7 Annotated Bibliography
- 8 References
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 them 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.
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
Broken Bindings and/or Loose Covers
The partial or complete failure of the original structure is most often caused by heavy handling and weak/inflexible structures. The primary concern for broken bindings is maintaining association between all the parts.
Embrittled and/or Detached 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.
The 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.
Deterioration and/or Failure of Memorabilia AttachmentMaterials 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.
Inherent Vice and/or Hazards
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: foodstuffs, animal, and plant specimens can attract insects and mold, and toxic materials may have been used in the production of some historic materials.
Considerations for Long Term Care and Treatment Approaches
Archives, libraries, and museums are well aware the higher the anticipated use of an object—the higher a preservation priority it is. However, albums hold different values for different people. The decisions regarding artifactual vs. informational value made will likely have a great influence on how an album will get processed, rehoused, and/or treated because it may not be possible to save every element of the content, arrangement, materiality, and information in an album due to resource and condition constraints.
Many albums contain a combination of artifactual and informational values, which could prompt conflicting courses of action. In these instances, it is best to consider the original function that an album likely held for the maker and its anticipated use by the archive, researchers, students, etc. It is also important to recognize that recent research suggests that deteriorated albums are not as dangerous an environment as they were previously considered, so many professionals lean toward keeping albums intact to retain their original integrity. There may be special instances when select photographs or other materials have significantly more value than the album as a whole, making it appropriate to remove it and place it more protective housing. In these instances, the album could still be saved in the same or a separate box. However, current conservation and preservation thinking view albums and scrapbooks as unique works of art that should not be permanently disassembled if at all possible.
To Dismantle or not to Dismantle
One of the most difficult and significant choices may be whether a scrapbook or album should be dismantled or left intact. The ultimate goal is to preserve their original order and format to maintain accessibility of the information and material evidence for as long as possible. This is in part because many photographs and other memorabilia have yet to be identified; an issue that benefits from an enhanced context that can be provided by original order, mounts, cases, and album structure, in addition to annotations and other artifacts of assembly.
Reasons Not to Dismantle:
It was formerly common practice to remove photographs from scrapbooks and albums. This was done because collectors and dealers were primarily concerned with the images and their monetary value rather than their artifactual value. At the same time curators and conservators felt compelled to dismantle albums due to their concerns for physical and chemical stability of photographs. However, current research has found that many photographs survive quite well within scrapbooks and albums, despite the threatening appearance of their surroundings. In addition, attempting to separate photographs and other memorabilia from album pages may ultimately do more damage than good to both the images and the album. Another crucial consideration is that albums possess their greatest historical significance and artifactual value as whole original objects because they retain a sequence and context that was imposed by the creator. A final factor to consider is security. Materials that are detached and rehoused in separate enclosures are more vulnerable to theft and loss than when they were attached to album pages. This is only a true problem for materials that are frequently consulted, but it should remain a consideration. While each album and scrapbook must be assessed individually on the basis of condition, value, and use, the preservation standard has fully shifted from immediate dismantling to making every attempt to retain photograph albums and scrapbooks as whole artifacts in their original form.
Reasons to Dismantle:
The primary reason to dismantle albums is to protect photographs and other artifacts from imminent physical or chemical damage. Severe degradation or hazards due to inherent vice or inserted materials are potential sources of risk. For example, the binding and contents may already be mostly separated, necessitating complete severance in order to safely rehouse and handle the components. A large amount of interleaving may be needed but may also add an unsafe level of bulk to the structure, necessitating a disbinding. Active instances of pest or mold may also require disbinding to quarantine contaminated materials from still uncontaminated materials. Another reason for dismantling might be if the album does not form a unified whole and its contents would be better integrated into existing institutional collections. If the materials do get dispersed, they should remain intellectually linked together with consecutive accession numbers that indicate their original source and also make it possible to identify related material in other locations.
If the difficult decision to dismantle a scrapbook is made, take time to document the original condition, format, sequence of materials, and annotations before it is dismantled. Judgement should be used to identify when dismantling should be carried out by a conservator.
Assessment and Planning for Scrapbook Conservation Flowchart
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|
| General assessment
||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
||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
||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
||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.|
||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.|
||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.|
Assessing Condition & Stabilization Options
The fragile state that many albums come to an institution in can make safe exhibiting and handling difficult. Awareness of common album condition issues and stabilization techniques can help museums and archives care for the albums in their collection and avoid conservation treatment unless absolutely necessary.
Broken Bindings &/or Loose Covers
Broken bindings can be the result of weak/inflexible structures or heavy use. The primary concern for broken bindings is maintaining association between all the parts.
- Stabilization Options:
- Initially, the structure can be placed in a good-quality flat box, wrapped it in good-quality paper, and/or tied with un-dyed bias tape or a similarly soft fabric ribbon.
- If time and material permits, leaves can be numbered with graphite, rehoused in polyester sleeves or interleaved, then all components can be stored together in a single box.
- Material should be stored horizontally in boxes to minimize unwanted stress on and movement of the varied components.
Embrittled and/or Detached Pages
Often due to high acidity or embrittlement, detached pages is a common problem for albums. The combination of poor-quality acidic paper and heavy handling puts stress along the gutter edge of the page, which snaps once it loses flexibility. Side-lacings and post bindings are the album structures that most commonly exhibit this problem.
- Stabilization Options:
- If the album is still bound but the pages exhibit extreme brittleness, consider disbinding to keep the pages from bending and breaking as they are turned.
- If structure requires a professional to disbind, consult a conservator.
- If resources prevent the help of a conservator, consider digitizing with album open to a safe angle.
- If pages are loose, the whole structure can be wrapped in good-quality paper and/or tied with un-dyed bias tape or a similarly soft fabric ribbon, and/or placed in a good-quality flat box to keep it together.
- If pages are completely separate, they can be labelled with graphite, placed in polyester sleeves or interleaved, then stored in good-quality folders and/or boxes, preferably in the same overall housing as the rest of the album to prevent disassociation.
Deterioration and/or Failure of Memorabilia Attachment
Materials have been attached to scrapbook pages in just about every conceivable way. While the most popular fasteners are glue and tape—pins, staples, sewing, strapping, wax, etc., have also been used. Unfortunately, age effects the fasteners just as much as the actual materials—glues become brittle, tapes lose tack, photo corners pop off, metal pins or staples rust and break. The failure of the attachment method leads to disassociation and during the deterioration of these materials, subsequent damage can result from oozing adhesives, physical transfer, and staining. Though deterioration is inevitable it can be slowed down with proper storage
- Stabilization Options:
- If there is active deterioration of metal attachments causing damage to memorabilia, these can be removed and replaced with safer materials, such as newer rust resistant metal attachments or undyed cotton thread.
- If there is active deterioration of tapes, such as oozing adhesives, transferring, or staining protect the facing page with interleaving and consult a conservator for further treatment.
- If the rubber cement adhesive of magnetic photograph albums has reached stage III of deterioration—when the adhesive is orange, brittle, and no longer tacky—photographs may begin falling out. Photo corners can be used to put images back in place, or photographs can be removed and rehoused, since this stage of degradation is the safest time to remove them.
- If no evidence of the former locations of fully detached materials can be found, materials should be placed in custom protective housing (sleeve, envelope, or encapsulation) and kept associated with the album.
- Considerations if items are to be stored separate from the rest of the scrapbook:
- Make sure to note in the original location where the item is now stored. This can be done is a light pencil notation on the page, or a slip of paper inserted between the pages.
- When possible, help maintain the continuity of the book by placing a copy of the item in the original location.
- Store fragile items horizontally in good-quality sleeves, folders, and/or boxes.
- Considerations if items are to be stored separate from the rest of the scrapbook:
- If materials have fully detached, they can be reattached if their original location can be determined via physical evidence, and it can be safely done.
- Some reasons to not reattach materials, even if original location is known:
- The item is too heavy for the page and will just fall off again, possibly causing more damage in the process.
- The item is too bulky to allow the book to close properly.
- The item is important enough to warrant better preservation in separate housing material.
- The item would damage other artifacts nearby or be damaged by nearby materials.
- Some methods of reattaching materials in original location.
- Photographs (and other items) can be reattached using paper or polyester photo corners. Choose corners made with good-quality materials and stable adhesives.
- The item can be placed in a good quality polyester enclosure, then the enclosures can be attached to the original page with photo corners to protect items with sensitive surfaces from handling, dust, abrasion, etc. This also prevents the use of adhesives on the original.
- Pressure-sensitive tape should never be used directly on an original artifact.
- If the page to which you are reattaching the item is artifactually important itself, avoid using tape or any corners that employ pressure-sensitive adhesive.
- Local reattachment with water-based adhesives like wheat starch paste or nonaqueous adhesives could be considered. However, this may cause staining or tidelines in the photographic prints and/or paperboards so should be carried out by a conservator.
- Some reasons to not reattach materials, even if original location is known:
Inherent Vice and/or Hazards
Albums that contain materials that are chemically unstable or contaminated with active mold, pests, food, or other hazards are a preservation priority both for their own safety and the safety of the materials and people around them. Unfortunately, the same variety of materials that can make albums extra interesting are also what can cause problems. Some historic materials were made using pigments and fillers that are now known to be toxic (i.e. lead and arsenic green). Many other materials can off-gas or transfer acids, such as in the rapid deterioration of newspaper clippings. Some materials can also adversely affect one another through direct contact, such as a highly acidic suede bindings that can cause acid migration in adjacent materials or platinum prints that can catalyze deterioration of adjacent material resulting in a "ghost" image. Deterioration of other unstable materials such as rubbers, plastics, celluloids, soft waxes, and other oily materials can cause staining. The most severe cases, however, usually contain materials such as foodstuffs, animal, and plant specimens that can attract insects and mold.
- Stabilization Options:
- Items that are suspected to be toxic should not be handled with bare hands. Even gloves are used, hands should be washed immediately after handling. If one or a few elements in a binding are suspected to be toxic, that item can be isolated in situ with a ployester sleeve over the item or the whole page. This should be considered for the adjacent page as well, since it was in direct contact with the potentially toxic item. If it is suspected that the many of the materials in the album are toxic, the whole album should be boxed and not handled by staff or served to the public. A conservator should also be consulted.
- Materials that are contaminated with active mold or other biological pests, food, or other hazards are a preservation priority and should be addressed through removal and isolation. Consult a conservator to salvage what is possible if the materials are deemed important enough.
- Materials that have potential to attract pests or mold can be encapsulated, then reattached to the album with photo corners.
- Discoloration from acids or media staining by adjacent materials or artifacts can be inhibited by interleaving pages with sheets of good-quality tissue or thin paper.
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.
How to Store Albums and Their Box
Once boxed, albums should be stored flat/horizontally on shelves. Try not to store albums and scrapbooks upright because any detached items will shift to the bottom and potentially be damaged and/or lost. In addition, bound structures usually require the overall support provided by flat storage, since pages often splay open and album structures can easily become distorted when stored vertically. This is especially true for oversized items.
If space requires that albums be stored vertically in document boxes or on the shelf, large structures should be stored spine down, adjacent to materials of similar size. An album with weak covers or loose materials should be held together by wrapping it in paper and/or tying it with unbleached linen or cotton tape. If tied, the bow/knot should be positioned at the foredge to prevent interference while shelving or causing indentations on the covers or spine due to pressure. It can also be acceptable to store small and medium-sized volumes upright on open shelves next to volumes of a similar size to discourage warping of covers and distortion of pages. If so, they should also be individually protected from external elements and adjacent materials by wrapping it with paper or containing it in a custom-made four-flap wrappers, using 20-point board for smaller albums and 40 pt. board for heavier albums.
If necessary, scrapbooks may be integrated with other archival materials and/or albums in a larger box. This can help keep items that are part of the same collection together, however, they should not be stacked directly on each other. Try to individually protect materials that are housed together by using interleaving, spacers, custom-made four-flap wrappers, or stackable trays. It is important to note here that storing boxes within boxes creates layered protection, which exponentially enhances its effectiveness.
Fragile scrapbooks may also benefit from including support boards in the box to facilitate handling. Slipcases are not recommended for the storage of albums because they cause abrasion every time the album is slipped in and out of the case, and they expose spines to light and dust. If albums are digitized before rehousing it relieves some of the pressure of access once it is rehoused. This could ultimately, effect both a processor’s choice of housing and storage location and extend an album’s potential lifespan.
Interleaving is a common and useful preventive measure. However, some binding structures cannot accept the additional bulk and strain of added sheets. Interleaving should not be used if it will cause structural damage. If there are still strong and intact strings or posts that could be easily loosened or removed, they may be loosened or removed to allow for the insertion of interleaving sheets. Before disassembly, however, the potential diminishment of artifactual values must be considered first. In addition, the potential of successfully rebinding the structure vs. leaving it disbound must be assessed. The most commonly used interleaving material today includes polyester film and lightweight, acid-free, and unbuffered rag papers.
Polyester film is often chosen because of its smooth surface, transparency, long term stability, and ability to support the turning of brittle pages, however, it can also add a lot of unnecessary weight to the structure and tends to create a lot of static, which is bad for friable materials. It is sold in varying degrees of rigidity. Rigid varieties are best used for and with photo corners, since floppy enclosures may easily slip out and very flexible corners won’t securely hold items in place. If a plastic cover sheet of a magnetic album is severely damaged or no longer attached to the leaf it can be replaced with a loose piece of polyester interleaving on each side of the leaf. Polyester sleeves could also be considered, but these could trap acids under the sheet if the paperboard has turned acidic.
High quality rag papers are generally a safe choice. It is important to note that while buffered interleaving would be beneficial to use with acidic materials, some photographic processes can be adversely affected by contact with alkaline materials. Additionally, it is currently unknown if buffered materials are safe and beneficial for magnetic photograph albums. Therefore, if there is any concern about distinguishing between when to use buffered or unbuffered interleaving, it may be best to simply use pH neutral material. Over time, however, interleaving may need to be replaced due to deterioration from staining and/or acid migration.
Interleaving should be cut to the same size as the scrapbook page. Judgement should be used when choosing to use interleaving. It is suggested to use interleaving in photographic albums when albums or photographs exhibit:
- Brittle, acidic, deteriorated, or highly colored pages that are putting the images or other materials in danger.
- Sticky, oozing, or exposed adhesives or pressure-sensitive tape.
- Evidence of offsetting, staining, or acid migration
- Silver mirroring or fading of the images.
- The presence of materials that could mechanically or chemically harm facing materials.
- Improperly processed photographic materials that may have residual chemistry. These may be identified by discoloration.
- Decorative bronze powders, which were often used for gilt borders and ornamentation, are composed of copper and zinc and will selectively oxidize and fade (in a spotted pattern) silver photographic images.
- Platinum or platinum-toned photographs. Platinum is a catalyst for cellulose deterioration which could cause irreversible discoloration.
- Unconventional memorabilia that is abrasive, potentially off-gassing, and/or potentially leaching materials such as plasticizers and oils.
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.
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.
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. This attempt may never be completely successful because scrapbooks and albums are a physical representation of their creator’s emotions and memories, and reformatting will affect the integrity and interpretation of them as primary sources in unknown ways.
In addition, making copies requires resources to first create and then maintain the new digital record. This can be both facilitated and complicated by quickly evolving technology, which continually makes things faster and cheaper while simultaneously making the digital record or the necessary viewing technology obsolete. This then requires more resources to either convert the first copy or to create a new copy from the original object. This then potentially puts the object through another round of ‘hard use.’
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.
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.
- Item Identification and Tracking
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.
- 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.
- File Naming of Images
File naming conventions should follow established best practices, 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).
- Quality Control and Processing
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.
- 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.
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|
|File Management and Storage||a networked campus drive, a monitored and secured off-site server, and a Digital Asset Management System (DAMS)|
|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|
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
- 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
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.
- Glossary of terms relating to photo albums / Richard Horton
- 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 Hain. 2008. “An Introduction to Preservation Challenges and Potential Solutions for Scrapbooks in Archival Collections.” Journal of Archival Organization 5 (3): 47-64. Accessed March 3, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1080/15332740802174183.
- This publication fills information gaps regarding albums and scrapbooks, specifically for an archival audience. It includes a streamlined but informative history on the development of albums and scrapbooks, followed by an investigation into the composition of most scrapbooks. It then outlines the most common methods of deterioration, offers some simple preservation options, and considers the advantages and limitations of conservation treatment and reformatting options for these unique materials. Another helpful aspect is the distillation and connections made between the many primary scrapbook and album publications that had been published up to this point.
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.
- 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.
|Paper Conservation Wiki|
|Examination and Documentation|
|Problems and Issues|
·Surface Cleaning ·Hinge, Tape, and Adhesive Removal ·Washing ·Sizing and Resizing ·Bleaching ·Alkalization and Neutralization ·Humidification ·Consolidation, Fixing, and Facing ·Backing Removal ·Mending ·Filling of Losses ·Drying and Flattening ·Lining ·Inpainting ·Matting and Framing ·Parchment
|Book Conservation Wiki|
|Examination and Documentation|
|Structural Elements of the Book|
·Washing of Books
·Alkalinization of Books
·Leaf Attachment and Sewing Repair
·Use of Leather in Book Conservation
·Circulating Collections Repair
·Non-Western Bookbinding Structures and Their Conservation