Tributes & Video Biographies
Sharing Life Stories, Connecting Generations, Preserving Legacies

Anatomy of an Archival Scrapbook Project

We are in the process of wrapping up a large scrapbook project for a client that has been such a delight to work on that I wanted to share the project and the process we’ve gone through as I believe many of my readers may have similar such scrapbooks and may wonder what can be done with them.

Some of you might be wondering, “scrapbook?? I thought you did video?” While our primary service is biographical and tribute videos, our core value proposition is helping you preserve your memories and create legacies. Inside of that, we often work with businesses and families helping them preserve the bits and pieces they have collected over the years and put them into a format that can both preserve the original materials in a safe, archival resting place while creating products that allow these to be easily shared with other family members. To that end we routinely create filing architectures for large scanning projects and often work with old scrapbooks and photo albums. Final products for these may be a printed copy of the book and/or the production of a video sharing the images but also allowing for the discussion of these objects by family members. I’ll talk more about that later.

This scrapbook we have been working on was created during the 1950s and 1960s by the mother of a large family. It chronicles the many camping trips and adventures the family took together over those two decades. The mom lovingly put captions under each image that narrates the image as well as things that happened during that specific trip and it is such a rich and treasured keepsake to this family.

Unfortunately over the ensuing years, the book has succumbed to the gradual effects of time and the deterioration that goes along with repeated handling of a much loved item. When the client brought it through the doors, little bits of the paper pages were falling on the floor of my office. I was afraid to let it leave or for that matter, even keep it! The pages were turning brown from acid and were brittle and cracking. Most had broken free of the album’s binding and were layered in order. Some pages were so severely damaged that parts of the handwritten text were missing. At one point, the mom had made an attempt to transfer everything into a new album and there were several pages of new paper where she had transferred the photos and begin the arduous process of rewriting all her little handwritten captions and notes. But unfortunately she was struck with Alzheimer’s disease and the project came to a halt. So the client brought the project to us with two goals, to save the current album and to create copies for each family member.

The first thing we did was to disassemble the album putting each full page into a Mylar (archival safe) sleeve and then put each page sleeve into a heavy duty archival storage box that will become the book’s final storage place. After this was done and we had an inventory of page and image counts, we began the task of scanning the pages and images. Each page was scanned through the Mylar sleeve so as not to risk further damaging the already fragile edges. High resolution scans were made that would serve as working files.

After the pages were scanned, each photograph was cropped and selective enhancements were made depending on the image. Some were just corrected for color balance or brightness while some needed much more extensive restoration work. Then each restored image was placed back into a file of the full page.

At this point I want to mention that there were several conversations with the client on options. Because there were so many handwritten bits that were damaged or missing, we considered having the mother’s handwriting matched and a custom font developed. Each image would then be placed and the text recreated with that font. We also considered finding all the letters and creating an ‘alphabet file’ of each letter and using those to patch the missing text. In the end we all decided that the pages should retain as much of their aged character as possible while coming up with some creative solutions for translating the missing text.

We addressed the missing text by providing an index in the back with each caption and a footnoting system matching original text images with the corresponding translation in the index. Pages were also added, such as a Preface explaining what the book was and creating a context for time, location and who created it.

We are in the process now of creating the final galley proofs for the client to approve before it goes to the printer. The final book will be a 13 x 19″ leather bound album with foil embossing on the cover and spine. Six copies will be printed on 100 lb. dull coat high quality paper stock. The images are absolutely gorgeous and will be a family treasure that I am sure will be equally loved, as much as if not more than, the original album.

I have been discussing the idea of creating a companion video where the family members will be interviewed discussing the album, the images in the album, and their recollections and memories of the times and adventures that the album showcases. What an amazing opportunity to have each family member talk about what they remember and how much having this album has meant to them!

They are considering it.

Stefani Twyford is a personal historian sharing life stories, connecting generations and preserving legacies. To learn more, visit her web site, find her on Twitter as @stefanitwyford, visit the Legacy Multimedia Facebook Fan Page, or send her an e-mail.

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