Considering Scrapbooks

One of the more interesting sections of the archive is the collection of scrapbooks.  The art, or practice, of scrapbooks is very much a lost art in today’s society.  Scrapbooks were not, in general, collections of photographs; after all, many were created well before the advent of the camera.  Instead, they tended to be a collection of cards, newspaper clippings, and a variety of other materials: tickets to shows, calling cards, sketches, really anything that could be pasted into a book.  In almost all cases, they tended to be built up over a period of time, containing things of specific, but often passing and varied interest to the collector.  One might profitably compare them to a favorites collection for the internet, bookmarks that hook into a wide variety of subjects.

This, however, tends to make them at once endlessly fascinating for the casual reader and maddeningly enigmatic.  Why was the person collecting every newspaper clipping about an obscure subject?  Rarely is there any explanation given.  Without this commentary, scrapbooks (like favorites) can lead the researcher astray; they can also open up entirely new facets of personality, hitherto hidden.

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