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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Scrapbooks: Intimate Records of Everyday Life, and More

When I was in school (long, long ago) we were sometimes assigned a scrapbook project. I can remember doing one on Venezuela that included an essay on Simon Bolivar, agriculture, industry, history, maps, etc. with any illustrations I could find. (Wretched old textbooks and National Geographics from the thrift shops often helped with such projects.) Another was on Abraham Lincoln (I can still feel the coarseness of the construction paper – brown – that comprised the pages of that album. It was old paper, and had a distinctive dusty odor, too.)

Many young friends kept scrapbooks of movie stars, horses, cats, animals in general, the Dionne Quintuplets, Shirley Temple, flowers, and other subjects. Boys tended toward subjects such as aviation, radio, sports, heroes (Charles Lindberg, boxing champs) cars, comic strips, and other “manly” matters.  I think my first unprompted effort was on science, but then, I was always a weird child.  
Adults collected recipes, albums of family travels with photos and souvenir ephemera, records of military service or occupations. Mothers kept scrapbooks on their children’s progress through childhood. College students kept a record of the years in school, with photos, programs for plays and dances and sporting events; clippings, grades, class schedules, lectures, and other souvenirs. I once acquired a pre-WWI album compiled by a student at a vocational college in our state who was studying pharmacy. After much research and a visit to the pharmacy school archivist, we determined that the album maker was in the first graduating class of the pharmacy school and became the first instructor under the dean. A lot more was discovered about his career, including the fact that I had no doubt dealt with him numerous times in a local pharmacy years earlier. Since the school was celebrating its centenary, the album found a home in its archives.