Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Scrapbooking Reflections

Scrapbooking is really interesting to me because it's a hobby that didn't always exist within my lifetime. And I'm not all that old, but I still was able to watch the phenomenon grow.

Now I don't mean to say that the very concept of the scrapbook was created during my lifetime, just the craft known as scrapbooking. Scrapbooks have been around for years. They tended to be collections of newspaper clippings and party invitations rather than photo albums. Sometimes people would keep scrapbooks that weren't even devoted to themselves. They might have a scrapbook of home decorating ideas or a scrapbook with pictures of and articles about their favorite movie star. Keeping a traditional scrapbook had long ago fallen out of favor, but you could still find a few people assembling them to remember their teenage years, or their babies' first years, or some other span of time in their lives. I once came across a table of old scrapbooks at an antique book store, and it was fascinating to flip through them and get a peek into someone's life and a long-gone era.

When I was in elementary school, my mom actually bought me a scrapbook. This was a scrapbook in the traditional sense. It was simply a number of large sheets of paper bound together by a cover reminiscent of a photo album. The paper was cheap and tended to rip if you weren't careful or when you tried to reposition something you had taped down. This scrapbook was meant to be a repository of my achievements. So when I got an honor roll certificate, into the scrapbook it went. It was soon joined by programs from my dance recitals, invitations to birthday parties, and any number of other small mementos. I don't believe I ever put a single picture in the entire scrapbook, just bits and pieces of paper, and the occasional science fair or dance competition ribbon.

I had a slightly unique scrapbooking experience in college. I was in an organization that held a state convention every year, and the individual clubs would compete for awards. One yearly event was the scrapbook competition. Clubs would try to represent their events and achievements of the year in a book filled with pictures, flyers, certificates, and other reminders of the year. We started doing this just before scrapbooking really hit the big time as a craft, and you could actually see the shift in club scrapbooks from year to year. What had once been hodgepodges of haphazardly cut out photos with a few scraps of construction paper thrown on for variety were now color-coordinated, expertly cropped, not a piece out of place productions. But while the scrapbooks of today can border on being pieces of art, I think they lack a bit of the do-it-yourself charm of the way we used to do it.

But I don't mean to be down on scrapbooks. While it's not a hobby in which I partake, I do appreciate the work it takes and the attention to detail many people bring to their layouts. Whenever I see a display of scrapbook supplies in a store, I can't help but be impressed by the sheer variety of papers, stamps, stickers, borders, corners, and more that are available. I've always been a sucker for miniatures, so I'm especially drawn to three-dimensional stickers. I think perhaps I've never gotten into scrapbooking because of the sheer amount of money I know I'd spend on these little details if I let myself get started.

I think one of the best things scrapbooking has done has been to get pictures out of the boxes and envelopes where they've languished and onto the page where they can be enjoyed. The same person who would find it an unbearable chore to put stacks of pictures in a photo album would gladly sort through those same photos in the name of creating a scrapbook page.

I think scrapbooking has also been good in helping people think about preserving photos. I never heard people discuss "archival-quality" papers and glues before scrapbooking came along. And I think future generations will thank us for our nicely preserved scrapbooks and photo albums that have lasted over the decades or even centuries.

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