Preserving Memories: Super Scrapbooking Sites, Embossing, Photographic Activity Test

By Anne Wilbur Premium

10 Super Sites

The Internet is practically overrun with scrapbooking sites. Where to go first? We’ve surfed oodles of them, asking ourselves, “What’s in it for genealogists?” Put these 10 online destinations at the top of your must-visit list.

1. The portal Web site ScrapLink <> is the scrapper’s answer to Cyndi’s List <>. Pick and choose from thousands of sites divided into 21 categories — for starters, give the Heritage list a whirl.

2. The Scrapbook Preservation Society <> site counters those vague “archival quality” product-label claims with scientific preservation information. Here you’ll find user-friendly articles, a glossary and archival Q&A.

3. Let us guess: You want to put your genealogy in an album but can’t find time between research sessions. Visit <> for dozens of timesaving organization tips plus free planner pages to track scrappable sayings, supplies, layout ideas and more.

4. You finally hurdled that brick wall, only to suffer from scrapper’s block — a pile of photos but no design ideas. Scrap Maps <> comes to the rescue with thumbnail sketches for layouts organized by page size and number of photos.

5. After you get your GEDCOMs in order, the next step in digitizing your family history is computerized scrapbooking. On eScrappers <>, you’ll find Photoshop lessons, file-format explanations, a digital layout gallery and free images such as photo corners, tags and background papers.

6. Scrapbook-Elements <> provides even more digital assistance: layout ideas, software-specific tutorials and dozens of downloadable page backgrounds and decorations.

7. Created by an ephemera enthusiast, The Scrap Album <> is a Victorian visual delight. Browse through greeting cards, old calendars, pages from commonplace books (as the first scrapbooks were called) and the like.

8. One Scrappy Site <> saves you time and money with idea-generating articles, free font downloads (search by letter or theme) and even recipes for busy researchers. Just started scrapping? Check out the font tutorial and FAQs.

9. When you need historical context for a heritage scrapbook page, but don’t want to write a thesis, visit eHistory <>. Search on an event for a synopsis, get timelines or browse in-depth articles.

10. Read fellow scrappers’ product reviews, learn about the latest supplies and see up-to-the-minute designs at <>. But first click Neighborhood Tour for an orientation to this giant site.


A natural component of plants’ cell walls, lignin (along with its better-known cousin, acid) doesn’t belong in your scrapbook. Paper that contains it turns yellow and brittle with exposure to light, heat and humidity. It also can cause photos to discolor and deteriorate, so make sure your scrapbook paper is lignin-free.

Be Your Own Embosser

Used to accent a page corner, photo mat or journaling plaque, subtle embossed designs decorate layouts without stealing attention from your photos. Brass stencil embossing, also called dry embossing, requires just a few supplies: an embossing stylus, light box (you also can put a lamp under a glass table or work vertically on a sunlit window), brass template (available for $2 to $10), wax paper and low-tack tape.

Choose light-colored, medium-weight paper to emboss — thin paper will tear; thick paper won’t take an impression. If you want, use ink, chalks, brush-tip markers or pencils to color your designs, as shown on the Lacy Pinafores page below. Add color after step 1 (before you actually emboss) to avoid denting the raised area. You can get brass stencils and other embossing supplies from:

? American Traditional Designs
(800) 448 6656, <>
? Heritage Handcrafts

(303) 683-0963, <>
? Lasting Impressions for Paper

(800) 936 2677, <>
Embossing, Step by Step

1. Place the brass template on the front of the paper and secure it with the tape.

2. Place the paper facedown on the light box. Rub crumpled wax paper over the area you’ll be embossing. Then use the stylus like a pencil to trace just the inside edges of the stencil — don’t “scribble” in the middle.

3. Turn the paper to the front and remove the template.
Scrapbook Page Courtesy of Heritage Handcrafts

Getting Photo Safety Down Pat

Q. What’s the Photographic Activity Test?

A. These days, it seems like you need a rocket scientist on standby to tell you whether it’s OK to use the latest paper, adhesive, ink or embellishment in your scrapbook. The Image Permanence Institute (IPI) <>, a nonprofit research laboratory, helps fill that void with the Photographic Activity Test (PAT).

The PAT identifies materials that might react with photographs. “We test binders, paper, plastic page protectors, pens, pencils, adhesives, photo corners, stickers, anything people put into an album,” says IPI scientist Daniel Burge. He stacks samples of the material in a “test sandwich” with fading and staining detectors. For comparison, he makes a second sandwich with a material known to be safe. Both sandwiches spend 15 days in a temperature-and humidity-controlled chamber. The test sample fails if its detectors show either more or much less fading, or more staining, than the control.

An increasing number of scrapbook companies use the PAT to back up their photo-safe claims. “It adds some sense of security to a consumer’s purchases,” Burge says. “It’s the best indication that materials have been manufactured to archival standards.”

Burge also recommends paying attention to where you keep your photos. No matter how archival it is, a box or album can’t protect your photos from an unsafe environment. Avoid storage areas exposed to light or extreme temperature and humidity — a closet in your home’s living area is ideal.
From the August 2005 Family Tree Magazine