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Thursday, May 29 • 2:30pm - 3:00pm
(Book and Paper Session) Preserving the African American Scrapbook Collection of Emory University Libraries

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Rare scrapbooks that document African American life in the United States from 1890-1975 are being preserved at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. With support from a Save America’s Treasures grant, the project is a collaborative effort with the Emory University Libraries Preservation Office, Digital Curation Center, and Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library (MARBL). The grant was awarded through the Department of Interior and the National Park Service in collaboration with the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

In 2011, Emory began the three-year process of preserving and digitizing our African American scrapbook collection. Thirty-four scrapbooks were slated for conservation treatment, and that number has grown as more African American manuscript collections are processed. There are many more scrapbooks in our collections that deserve attention, but those created by African Americans, whether famous or not, took precedence for this project.

Scrapbooks are like the dirty little secrets of libraries and archives – often restricted from use, without conservation treatment and tucked into vaults awaiting tough decisions. Scrapbooks have been neglected, as they are complex amalgams of multiple types of artifacts assembled in a book format. Ours contained everything from half-inch thick military patches to dance cards with a pencil still attached. Papers and objects are affixed with the entire gamut of adhesives and tapes onto usually brittle pages and bound without regard to the thickness and weight of the contents. Whether turn-of-the-century constructions or 1970’s magnetic albums, these scrapbooks posed enumerable preservation questions. In working with the Emory collection, we have developed decision-making processes for treating a variety of scrapbooks.

Historic importance, current condition, and frequency of use are all considered to help inform our conservation decisions about treating the diverse materials in each scrapbook. It is common to encounter multiple adhesives and tape layers in scrapbooks. Removing these materials can be difficult or even impossible, for instance when information is written directly on the tape carrier layer. In our project, time and budget constraints of the grant helped to establish boundaries around this treatment phase, always foremost in our minds when determining the course of treatment.

The original structure of each scrapbook was digitally photographed to document the initial experience of viewing them. Many volumes required stabilization repairs before digitization could occur. Reassociating loose items, separating glued stacks of paper objects, lifting photographs that had previously hidden important information written on the back, and reformatting some of the more fragile scrapbooks into encapsulated polyester page books meant a second digital capture. Developing efficient hand-offs and documenting workflow between the three library departments was crucial to the project. Cross training in handling fragile materials and capturing metadata proved beneficial.

Every scrapbook item—covers, fronts and backs of foldouts, and each layer of (sometimes eighteen!) overlapping items—has been captured, and those digital files eventually will become available to researchers through the Emory Libraries Finding Aid.

avatar for Ann Frellsen

Ann Frellsen

Collections Conservator, Emory University Libraries
Ann Frellsen has just retired after nearly 27 years as the Book and Paper Collections Conservator for the Emory University Libraries. Her other specialties are training, disaster planning and response, and bookbinding.

Brian Methot

Digital Photography Coordinator, Emory University
Brian Methot is a member of the Digitization and Digital Curation team at Emory University Libraries. He is a member of the Save America's Treasures grant project and works very closely with the whole team to plan specific digitization processes. Among other responsibilities, Brian... Read More →
avatar for Kim Norman

Kim Norman

Preservation Manager and Conservator, Georgia Archives
Kim Norman is the Preservation Manager and Conservator at the Georgia Archives. Kim has been co-chair of the AIC Emergency Committee, program co-chair of the Alliance for Response network in Atlanta (HERA), as well as vice-president and president of the Southeastern Regional Conservation... Read More →

Thursday May 29, 2014 2:30pm - 3:00pm PDT
Grand Ballroom A