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Family Photo PreservationGetting It Together: Creating & Preserving Scrapbooks

Scrapbooks Assemble! 

The easiest way to create a scrapbook without causing any damage is to use digital copies of items instead of the originals. Store the originals in a safe space. This method is also useful for displaying a cherished photo, document or newspaper without causing or accelerating deterioration. 

7 Rules for Creating a Scrapbook

  1. Start with a good archival foundation. Choose an archival-quality album with acid- and lignin-free mounting pages with chemically stable plastic page protectors. 
  2. Don't use rubber cement, pressure-sensitive tapes such as masking or cellophane tape, staples or hot glue adhesives to attach anything to the mounting page. These things will cause irreparable damage to your items. Ever see brown, crumbly cellophane tape that has lost its adhesive and has yellowed everything around it? You don't want that. 
  3. Don't apply adhesives directly to any original or important documents, photos, memorabilia or works of art. If you are using copies, use a stable acid-free acrylic adhesive. 
  4. Use photo corners to hold items to the mounting page. Paper photo corners should be acid- and lignin-free and use an acid-free adhesive. Clear polypropylene photo corners are available if you want a cleaner look. 
  5. If an item is 8 x 10" or larger, upgrade to a larger photo corner. A larger photo corner will provide more support for the item. 
  6. Put mounting pages into clear archival-quality page protectors to prevent acid migration. 
  7. Store your scrapbook flat inside an appropriately sized box.

Preserving Scrapbooks from the Past

Scrapbooks are a window into someone’s personal history. They can show you a snapshot of what a person found to be important through newspaper clippings, photographs and other ephemera. Preserving these items can be a challenge because of the discoveries we’ve made about the non-archival nature of the materials used at that time. 

If you have a scrapbook or album that has photos, documents or notes that can’t be removed from the pages without causing damage – preserve the item intact. In some cases, the album or scrapbook itself is an important part of its history.

  1. Measure your scrapbook or album. When selecting a box, you want to leave a 1/4-1/2" of space around the item. Clamshell boxes are a good option because the back-edge lays flat whent the box is open. This allows for easy access to the item. 
  2. Check each page for loose items. That old adhesive just isn't like it used to be. You may find items that were once glued to a page but the adhesive has failed. You'll want to put those loose items in small archival plastic sleeves and keep them with their original pages. 
  3. Interleave! Those! Pages! Protect against acid migration by placing acid- and lignin-free paper between pages. The paper should be slightly smaller than the album page but large enough to cover the photos and other items. Buffered paper is suitable for all of the common photograph types. Note: If the scrapbook contains pieces of leather or other animal proteins, you should opt for unbuffered paper for interleaving. 
  4. Pad It! Wrap the scrapbook or album in archival tissue and place it inside the box. Pad the edges to prevent the item from sliding around. If the cover is made from leather or another animal protein, wrap and pad the scrapbook with unbuffered tissue.