Memories on a Page
The joys of scrapbooks
“I can brag about it because I really didn’t do any of the work,” John G. “Jack” Weinmann admits. “But my wife Virginia did a beautiful job!”
The object of Weinmann’s admiration is a scrapbook. As King of Carnival 1996, he received it as a gift from the Rex organization. According to Rex archivist Dr. Stephen Hales, similar gifts are made to all other monarchs and their Queens. Each becomes a prized possession.
“It’s big: about two feet by three feet. And it’s bound in leather,” Weinmann says. Filled with mementos of his reign, all properly captioned, the book occupies a place of honor in his library.
By the 1830s, people were already saving clippings and paper mementos on decorated pages in scrapbooks. In New Orleans, an advertisement for “juvenile scrap-books” for sale at the “New Orleans Literary Emporium, Number 14 Camp Street,” appeared Dec. 24, 1843 in the Daily Picayune.
Susan Tucker, retired archivist for the Vorhoff Library at the Newcomb Center for Research on Women, is one of the authors of The Scrapbook in American Life, Temple University Press, 2006. Tucker notes that scrapbooks, with their personal collection of items, were made by people “trying to hold their world of knowledge – they didn’t have Google.”
Newcomb’s collection of scrapbooks includes early Newcomb College students’ college scrapbooks: “They made their books about growing up, becoming their own people.” Other scrapbooks in the collection cover a debutante year and an overseas tour by Tulanian singers.
Tucker admits to making her own scrapbooks about family summer vacations – and giving them to the children for Christmas presents. When she sold her mother’s house recently she made a “scrapbook of details: the wallpaper, the doorknobs.” This time, instead of a paper volume, “I uploaded it.”
The Loyola University Archives hold scrapbooks of university activities, including students’ summer studies in Mexico as well as commonplace books (an earlier form of scrapbook including mainly written material). One bachelor’s book begun in the 1800s includes household hints. A man kept a scrapbook of a trip to New York; a woman pasted in photos and wrote a narrative of two couples’ cross country trip (including all their expenses). Hand-drawn decorations illuminate the book kept as a girl by Lise Tallant, aunt of author Robert Tallant.
Scrapbook keeping went out of fashion around 1960, according to Tucker. But, by the ’80s, businesses selling scrapbook making supplies were proliferating and soon were online.
Michel Boudreaux has long been a consultant for Creative Memories, a direct sales scrapbook supply company. Supplies include “our albums – they’re sturdy and well put together, plus pages, page protectors, adhesives, pens and fun embellishments.” You can find her online at CreativeMemories.com/user/michelboudreaux. She also creates online scrapbooks through a company called Forever.com.
Scrapbookers use stickers, illustrations and cut paper – using a tool called a “Cricut” that can stamp paper into fanciful cut shapes. According to Boudreaux they can meet each other at workshops (“on a specific topic”) or at an event called a “crop.”
“Scrapbookers say ‘crop till you drop,’” laughs Boudreaux. Groups of scrapbookers gather and work on their own materials. (Boudreaux regularly goes with a group of six women for a two-week “crop” in Orange Beach, Alabama.) “Crops” are held twice a year in Rayne, Louisiana, for several hundred participants.
Scrapbooker Lisa Arseneaux is currently making a “baby girl scrapbook” for a new mother. Arseneaux has posted things on Pinterest and does Google searches for supplies and layout suggestions. She also shops locally: “Wal-Mart has a little section and so does Tuesday Morning.” Craft store Michaels’ Clearview location (there’s also a location on Claiborne Avenue) stocks supplies, offers occasional courses and has a room for scrapbookers stocked with a selection of tools.
Arseneaux’s chief pleasure in scrapbook making is “all the creativity, using all the different techniques.” She is proud of her work: “I take photographs of every page of any scrapbook I make – if I give it away I can go back and re-create it.”
Scrapbooks are also meant to be appreciated in the future. “The old ones got yellowed and faded,” Arseneaux admits.
“Nowadays, with the clear sleeves and the acid free paper, I’ve been told they could last forever,” she says hopefully.