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Scrapbooks, Albums, and other Mixed Content Memorabilia

by Jennifer Toelle, Registrar, Smoky Hill Museum, Salina, Kansas on

From the Smoky Hill Museum Collections, Salina, Kansas

From the Smoky Hill Museum Collections, Salina, Kansas

I recently spotted a book at my local library, The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt by Caroline Preston. This novel told through images of scrapbook contents prompted me to think of the many scrapbooks in our collections – no two are alike. The unique aspect to these scrapbooks centers on the mementos and keepsakes of individuals, families and groups.

One of the first things many of us ponder is how to adequately preserve the scrapbook when it contains several mixed materials. I began to make a mental list of the various items that may be found within scrapbooks:

photographs, postcards, newspaper clippings, graduation announcements, commencement programs, valentine cards, wooden coins, metal badges, balloons, stickers, campaign material, napkins, buttons, ribbons, tickets, dried flowers, a tiny lock of hair, a piece of jewelry and list continues to infinity and beyond!

Preservation issues aside, the intertexuality of the scrapbook is found through the compilation of these objects. The contents construct a plural meaning. Due to this intertextual nature, it may prompt us to look at it as more than a singular artifact. Realistically, many questions may arise on how to move forward to process these collections.

From time to time, a scrapbook will have loose items that have not been pasted or attached within the scrapbook. Many of which vary in scope and content. I may be inclined to ask a question like – should I catalog this identification badge separately?

One helpful tip is to analyze the scope of the overall collections, review policies and exhibition planning. It may be beneficial to ask a series of questions.

  • Will cataloging this piece of memorabilia as Communication Artifact under the Secondary Term, Scrapbook provide the search parameters to locate all of these varying objects inside?
  • How will the Scrapbook be cross-indexed and how will the related material be linked together?
  • Would it be beneficial to catalog any loose items separately for the ease of retrieval?

The answers to these questions may vary and decisions will depend upon a case by case scenario. Certainly, cataloging this object with the Primary Term, Album or more specifically the Secondary Term, Scrapbook will suffice along with a detailed finding aid. Though, I recently opted to catalog some loose scrapbook items individually. From the preservation standpoint and the need for retrieval for the future research and exhibitions – it seemed to be the logical route. Granted, it takes more time to identify the object terms for those multiple loose pieces or including the terms for cross-indexing for the attached contents within the scrapbook, but that’s the way we word!

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