Fortunately, the best way to care for your family’s vintage scrapbook is both simple and fairly inexpensive. You can preserve and enjoy your family treasure with this five-step treatment regimen.
1. Examine the scrapbook’s “bones.”
Whether black, white or cream, the paper typically used in old scrapbook albums is highly acidic. This doesn’t mean that it’ll disintegrate before your eyes, but it does mean that the paper is unstable and will continue to interact with other items on the page.
2. Administer first aid.
You can increase your scrapbook’s chance of survival with some common-sense first-aid treatment solutions.
Your scrapbook may be bursting at the seams with little or no room for extra pages. If the book is held together by a cord or post-and-screw binding, you may be able to loosen the binding to allow for the slight bulk of the interleaving papers. If it’s tightly bound, use a limited number of interleaving papers to protect the most valuable items from additional damage.
3. Apply triage.
Professional conservators use a more aggressive treatment for historic scrapbooks and documents: It involves removing all objects from each page, deacidifying the items, and encapsulating the page in archival polyester. It’s a painstaking procedure difficult to recreate at home. Therefore, proper storage is a better option for family historians, says Donia Conn, NEDCC education coordinator. (See page 31 for information on the NEDCC’s recent Woody Guthrie scrapbook conservation project.)
4. Give high-tech treatment.
Before you carefully pack your scrapbook inside an archival box and store it away, take time to make a digital copy of the entire book—and store multiple copies on multiple media in multiple places, advises Conn. It’s the best way to ensure that your family heirloom will survive for the next generation. You can digitize your keepsake two ways:
- Using a digital camera: Scrapbooks can be large, heavy and awkward to handle, so it’s often easier and safer—as well as kinder to the album—to photograph each page instead of trying to wrestle the book onto a flatbed scanner. All you need to do is carefully turn each page.
At the NEDCC, artifacts are digitized using a digital single- lens reflex camera and a copy stand. At home, Conn recommends placing the highest megapixel camera you have on a tripod. Then follow these steps:
1. Place your scrapbook or the individual page on a clean, flat surface with plenty of natural light.
2. Secure your camera to the tripod using a sturdy screw-type camera mount. You may be able to reverse the center pole of your tripod so that your camera hangs directly above the scrapbook.
3. Use TIFF or RAW file format if available on your camera; otherwise, select the highest-quality JPG.
4. Minimize edge distortion by keeping the camera at a distance and using the zoom feature to center the object in the frame.
5. Turn off the flash.
6. Use a shutter release attachment if you have one. Another option is to use the time-release feature on your camera; this gives you time to set the photo and step away from the camera to get a steady shot.
- Using a scanner: Use a scanner only if you have individual pages small enough to fit easily on the glass of your flatbed scanner. Set the scanner software according to the kind of items on the page—documents, photographs or newspapers. If you have a combination of items, opt for photos and check the descreening option for the newspaper items. Always scan in full color.
1. Clean the glass scanner bed with a clean dry cloth.
2. Set the scanner for documents or photographs depending on what is on the scrapbook page.
3. Select 24-bit color, 600 dpi, Target Original Size. Be sure to check the option for Descreening if your page includes newspaper clippings.
4. Scan the covers, front and back as TIFF files.
5. Use batch file naming to save time.
5. Plan for long-term care.
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