Diving into the Associated Scrapbooks

Posted on December 22, 2017 by

This month’s JMM Insights comes from our archivist, Lorie Rombro. You can read more posts by Lorie here.

In the last few months I have begun working on a collection of scrapbooks from The Associated Jewish Charities. The books date back to 1919 and I have been recently investigating the late 1940’s and 1950’s scrapbooks of the publicity and campaign work of the Women’s Division. These books are incredibly interesting, giving a peek into a large, organized group of women working to help not only the Jewish community of Baltimore but people throughout the world. Reading and processing the scrapbooks has been a history lesson of the time period, here and abroad.

Scrapbooks have long been a way to preserve photographs, newspaper clippings, pamphlets, documents, and other assorted items.

The problem with scrapbooks is that they are often put together with materials that are detrimental to long-term preservation. In the past, scrapbook pages where made of poor-quality, highly acidic paper that deteriorates rapidly and discolors. The pages would also become brittle over time and then tear easily and crumble. Often, the binding of the album was not made for the increase in size caused by the materials placed in the scrapbook, causing the spine to break and pages to come out. Papers are attached to the scrapbook with harmful tapes and/or glue. Multi- paged letters or pamphlets may be fastened only by the last sheet, causing rips and tears, or folding and crushing of documents.

For all of these reasons I have been carefully cataloging, photographing and taking apart the scrapbooks. Archivists like me always struggle with the decision whether a scrapbook should stay together or be taken apart. If possible, we try to leave a scrapbook together, since it tells a story not only with the information inside of it but how someone chose to put it together. That is why if I do dismantle a scrapbook, I carefully document its original form for future researchers. To some, these scrapbooks may only seem to contain old bits of paper, but to us they are full of important historical information.

I wanted to share some of what I have found in the scrapbooks. Not only does it give a picture of the time it was made, but some of the pieces could be produced and used today.

The two images above are from the 1949 Women’s Division scrapbook.

We hope you laugh a little at these two postcards that went out to the husbands of the women volunteering! In 1950 over 1200 women participated in the campaign.

This picture is from the 1951 G-day handbook – check out all the do’s and don’t’s they’ve got listed!

Last is my very favorite which I believe could be used today – babies are always a good tug on the heartstrings. These are images from the publicity and booklets for the 1955 Women’s Division campaign.

Making a Scrapbook to Last

Today, making a scrapbook which will stand up to the test of time is easier. Choose a book which is made with acid free paper and pH neutral adhesives for the binding. Use acid free photo corners or other type of binding, make sure all the corners are carefully attached but do not use glue.

In this picture you can see how tape discolors and negatively affects paper.

You want to be able to remove anything placed in a scrapbook, you never know when you might need it again! Scrapbooks are an incredible way to document your family history, a trip, an important event or your organization – they are worth spending a little extra money on good supplies to make sure that future generations can enjoy them.

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