Tips to Preserve Your Scrapbooks

A co-worker recently asked me how I fell in love with old photographs. Without hesitation I told her how I loved to look at a scrapbook my grandmother assembled for my father that included all of his class pictures; group pictures of his Cub Scout pack and sports teams; his varsity letters and Eagle Scout award; and news clippings about his childhood activities. The scrapbook was a window to the past through which I could look and see the boy my father used to be. With their eclectic array of photographs, theater programs, match books, dried flowers, news clippings, baby bracelets, lockets of hair, and other odds and ends, scrapbooks are incredible historical records of everyday life. Their best quality, the interesting variety of things they contain, make scrapbooks difficult to preserve for future generations. However, there are simple things that you can do when creating and saving scrapbooks that will keep them in good condition for years to come.


  • Use high quality materials to make your scrapbooks.
  • Paper products that are labeled acid free or have passed the PAT (Photo Activity Test) are recommended. You can purchase PH pens to test the acidity of paper products. Plastic sleeves for scrapbook pages should be made of a polyester based plastic such as polypropylene. This type of plastic should not yellow over time or adhere to the scrapbook contents.
  • Do not overfill scrapbooks so that the width of the pages exceeds the width of the binding.
  • This causes stress on the binding and leaves the contents vulnerable to damage when the scrapbook can not close properly. Additionally, do not attach contents to the pages that protude from the scrapbook when it is closed.
?Example of a scrapbook that is overfilled and has protruding items.
  • Avoid using staples and metal paper clips to attach items to scrapbook pages.
  • Over time staples and paper clips can rust and leave indentations in pages.
  • How long adhesives, such as glue sticks, tapes and stickers will last is unknown.
  • Over periods of many years adhesives tend to dry out, discolor and potentially stain items. You might consider using photo corners or memorabilia pockets to attach items to scrapbook pages. This allows items to be securely attached without being in direct contact with potentially damaging adhesives. Saving:
  • Store scrapbooks in boxes to product them from light and dust.
  • Boxes should not be too large because you do not want scrapbooks to slide around inside. However, they should not be such a tight fit that they are difficult to remove from the box.
?Scrapbook in a box that is not too large, or too tight a fit.
  • It is recommended to store scrapbooks flat, particularly larger volumes.
  • This provides more support for the pages and the attached contents.
  • Keep them in a dry, cool environment with a consistent temperature, such as a closet.
  • Do not store them in attics, basements or garages that are prone to dampness or extreme fluctations in temperature.
  • Handle carefully with clean hands.
  • Laying scrapbooks on a flat surface to view them will provide the most support for the binding, cover, pages and attachments. Washing hands prior to handling scrapbooks will prevent oils and dirt from transferring to the scrapbook pages. Additional Reading: Library of Congress, Preservation of Scrapbooks and Albums Lisa Wood, Curator for Visual Resources

Posted November 30, 2010
Topics: All Topics

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