Caring for Your Albums and Scrapbooks

Scrapbooks contain various papers, prints, clipping and photographs.

Many of us save our special mementos and photographs in albums and scrapbooks. We may also have inherited photo albums and scrapbooks from our relatives. These memory books pose unique preservation challenges. Albums and scrapbooks are complex multipart and multilayered objects. Deterioration and damage can occur to the binding, the paper support leaves, or the individual items adhered to the leaves. The adhesives used to affix various elements, often ephemeral items, can become brittle and inflexible. Some adhesives like rubber cement will leave dark stains where applied. There may be little you can do for your original albums and scrapbooks besides putting them in protective boxes to reduce wear and tear and prevent the loss of individual attachments.

Digital Photo Books

Digital travel photos collected and preserved as printed books

Printed photo book along side the cellphone used to take the images

If your albums can be safely scanned or digitally photographed, you may consider capturing the content and using editing and design software (available for purchase or via online services) to make a new print version. This allows you to put away the original for safekeeping.

Once you have done the work of importing your digital images, you can order multiple copies from photo book services to share with family and friends.

Homemade Albums and Scrapbooks

If you are making a new scrapbook or album from scratch, consider using digital prints of original image elements. Use only adhesives that will not yellow or become brittle over time. If you do put original items into your books, use photo corners rather than glues and tapes, especially if in direct contact with your mementos or photographs. Corners are a tried and true method for arranging and placing photographs and other paper items into albums and scrapbooks. Old gummed paper corners may pop off over time, but today’s photo corners have a peel-and-stick acrylic adhesive that is easy to use and stays stuck.

There are hundreds of styles and types of albums and scrapbooks on the market. Choose the best quality you can afford. Avoid album sleeves made of PVC, which off-gas. Use the shopping guide located at the bottom of the “Caring for Your Objects” section of this exhibit to identify the right materials for your application.

Always assess the features of products on the market to ensure they are photo safe, PVC-free, and have high quality paper.

Specialty Albums

Special sleeves and pockets made from polypropylene or another stable plastic are available for collectibles like postage stamps, baseball cards, and postcards. These options allow you to arrange these items in books and binders without directly adhering them to paper support pages.

Postage stamp collection in need of housing improvements

Stamp albums or stockbooks are ideal for organzing and protecting postage collections.

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