Scrapbook unlocks the secret of ‘Uncle George’

Family Searcher
by Nina Brawn

    The latest issue of “Family Tree Magazine” had an article on family scrapbook preservation. Since I was recently given a scrapbook put together by Fred’s Aunt Mabel, the article was both timely and helpful. Like most of us, even if I thought I “should do something” I had no idea what to do to safeguard these old treasures.

    Aunt Mabel’s scrapbook is typical of its type; loaded with badly yellowed newspaper clippings. It was apparently put together largely in order as events unfolded, and so serves as a timeline of the people significant in her life and the major events of the time. It was interesting to recognize names of the long-passed “local celebrities” my husband knew in his youth. I finally understood their place in Dover-Foxcroft history, not from the eyes of a child, but from their contemporaries.
    It also provided several of those “aha’ moments in genealogy when something suddenly becomes clear. I had recently discovered a photo of a man who was reported to be “Uncle George” but nobody knew how he fit into the family tree. Locked in the back of Aunt Mabel’s scrapbook was an obituary that unlocked the secret of Uncle George (complete with a photograph which helped “prove” it was the same man).
    I had often worried about the best way to care for this type of family treasure, and the article from “Family Tree Magazine” provided some real help. It suggested that in the case of newspaper-filled scrapbooks, probably the best “at home’ alternative is to buy an “archival” box slightly larger than the scrapbook, and to put a piece of “archival” paper between each page. I intend to either go online or search old magazine ads for a reliable supplier of true archival materials. Many manufacturers claim to provide “archival” materials, and these should be safe to store your materials. But truly museum quality archival materials must meet four quality standards: acid-free, lignin-free, photo-safe, and buffered. The first three standards means these products will not interact with the stored materials. The buffering products actually help neutralize acid-producing materials such as newspaper, cardboard, and many scrapbook papers themselves.
    Luckily, Aunt Mabel’s scrapbook is tied together, so I can gently take it apart to scan it then make copies and save a CD of my work. If this is not possible with yours, you will want to try to carefully prop open each page and take digital photos.
    If your scrapbook contains items that will contribute to serious damage over time you can buy archival envelopes to separate items from the rest of the scrapbook. Or, you can carefully remove them from the book and leave an archival-safe paper on which you have written (with a no. 2 pencil) what was removed and where it is — safely — being stored. Examples of damaging materials include rusting metal (paperclips, pins, staples, campaign buttons) food and food wrappers, and pressed flowers and bugs (intentional or not).
    A great resource for further information on preserving your family’s book-bound treasure is www.nedcc.org the Northeast Document Conservation Center.
    With tender, loving, and educated care, we can pass these often sentimental monuments down to future generations.
    Nina G. Brawn has lived in the Dover-Foxcroft area for over 50 years and currently lives there with her husband Fred. Nina was the last of 10 children, has three children of her own and nine grandchildren. She can be reached online at ninagbrawn@gmail.com.

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