Recently, I attended the Care of Historic Scrapbooks workshop taught by Jennifer Hain Teper at the Campbell Center for Historic Preservation Studies in Mt. Carroll, IL.

Jennifer Hain Teper lectures on the preservation challenges particular to scrapbooks as composite objects made up of many different types of materials.

The Head of Conservation at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (which, full disclosure, is where I performed the third-year conservation internship required by my conservation study program), Jennifer generously shared her experiences working with UIUC’s extensive scrapbook collection.  The workshop at the Campbell Center lasted two full days, with lectures and discussion in the mornings, and hands-on training in the afternoons.

Hence the name: an example of a true “scrapbook,” made up of scraps of fabric and paper clippings adhered to the pages of a wallpaper sample book.

In addition to an overview of the common materials and preservation challenges of scrapbooks as artifacts, Jennifer presented us with a case study of a scrapbook assessment and treatment project performed at UIUC.  Jennifer shared her projected and actual budgets both for the condition survey and the treatment project, as well as a thoughtful analysis of the inevitable discrepancies.  Her honest assessment of the project pointed out potential pitfalls and areas of concern when designing a scrapbook conservation project.  Having the opportunity to learn from her experience puts me in a far better position to begin planning our own scrapbook project at ISU Library, since I now have very concrete data on which to base my own estimates.

An example of a scrapbook rehousing designed by the UIUC Libraries Conservation Lab.

Our lively, engaged group of workshop participants included three librarians from Western Kentucky University Library Special Collections, a curator from the National WWII Museum in New Orleans, a student from the Museum Studies Program at Western Illinois University, an archivist from UIPUI University Library, and an archivist from the Illinois Supreme Court Historic Preservation Commission.

Sue Lynn McDaniel, Special Collections Librarian at Western Kentucky University, practices consolidating red rotted leather with Cellugel.

Jennifer demonstrates the intricacies of properly wrapping a book for storage or transport.

Among our group, I was the only conservator taking the class.  However, while I am already well-versed in the actual treatment techniques we practiced (encapsulating, making wrappers, paper mending, hinging, backing removal), the class still proved to be a valuable experience for me.  Learning some tried-and-true approaches from someone who has been thinking about the complexities of scrapbooks for much longer than I have saves me from having to reinvent the wheel when I approach our own scrapbook collection.  It was also just a joy to have two uninterrupted days to think about scrapbook preservation problems non-stop, and to bounce ideas off of others struggling with similar issues.

Jennifer’s solution to isolating an attachment which still needs to be handled: a Melinex encapsulation with a window cut into it, so the card can still be opened and read.

I’m very happy to announce that we have just started our own scrapbook project at ISU Library.  The overall goals of the project are to:

  • Identify and inventory scrapbooks in the Manuscript and Archives collections
  • Assess the condition of the scrapbooks
  • Prioritize scrapbooks for digitization, rehousing, stabilization, and full treatment
  • Treat scrapbooks according to the determined priorities

Images of some of the scrapbook challenges which await us in ISU Library Special Collections and Archives.

Our conservation volunteer, Martha, will be working with me on this project, so look for updates from either one of us in the months ahead.  In the meantime, if your own scrapbook collection needs some TLC, I can recommend Jennifer Hain Teper’s Care of Historic Scrapbooks workshop at the Campbell Center without reservation.  Whether you work within the conservation field or practice an allied profession, you will end the course better equipped to tackle the challenges of these complex artifacts.

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