Why I Keep Non-Archival Items in my Scrapbook

Big Game Football Scrapbook Layout by Natalie Parker

This question has popped up a few times over the years and I haven’t addressed it directly in a post.  I use a lot of ephemera in my scrapbooks.  Ephemera isn’t acid or lignin free or “archival.”  I get questions about if I pre-treat these items or why even include them in the first place.

The short answer:  because I value the ephemera more, everything’s a tradeoff, nothing is really totally archival anyway, and all paper will eventually deteriorate.

The Long Answer

I’m presently in graduate school training to be an archivist.  I’ve taken several classes on collecting information, organizing it, and on the preservation of paper and other materials. You can read several posts sharing what I’ve learned along the way and how it relates to the everyday scrapbooker here.

Does my future degree make me more qualified to speak on this subject?  I don’t think so but I believe it’s given me some valuable perspective about what I do at home.

The first lesson I learned in my first class in graduate school was that everything has a tradeoff.  If you organize information in a more detailed way, you trade off the time it takes you to do that.  If you do less organization, you trade off the time you spend to find something later.

Whether or not I include non-archival items is a tradeoff.  I believe the value of having the items in the scrapbook outweighs their eventual deterioration.  I want to see the articles about my husband’s water polo coach.  I want my kids to see newspapers from 9/11.

All paper will deteriorate eventually.*  It’s a bit sobering.  I’m not under some delusion that my scrapbooks will end up in an archive somewhere.  If I get to show them to my kids and grandkids, I’m cool with that.  If something happens to them after I’m gone, I won’t be around to know about it.

Archivists make tradeoffs every single day.  I’ve visited many archives and archivists over the last few years.  Archives aren’t beacons of perfection.  Archivists every day have to make the best decisions they can using the resources they have.  It’s a good lesson for the scrapbooker:  it can’t be perfect.

Why don’t I pre treat non-archival items?  Two reasons.  First, an archivist would put the newspaper in the best environment to keep it safe but not actually change it.  I’m also not convinced that stuff actually works.  Second, I’m lazy and don’t feel like it’s worth the time.  I’ve seen 50+ year old scrapbooks full of newspapers on my tours through archives and they are holding up pretty well.  If mine make it 50 years, I’ll be happy.

Do you have to take the same route as me?  Not at all.  Do what makes you feel comfortable.  However, I hope this helps with perspective.  Do you still worry about non-archival items in your scrapbook?  Please share below.

*Digital media deteriorates much much faster than paper, so scrapbooks are still preferable.  Read more detail about the deterioration of paper and media here.

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Maps in Scrapbooks

Maps in Scrapbooks by Natalie Parker

My summer wanderlust is in full swing even though I’ve already taken my summer vacation!  One of my favorite things to save for from my travels are maps.  You can check out how I turned maps from our travels into coasters here.

There are lots of cool ways to include maps in a scrapbook!

Keep it Whole

If you’re really attached to the map, include the whole thing so it can be folded out and looked at, like I did with this map of 17-Mile Drive in Monterey.

Maps in Scrapbooks by Natalie Parker

Cut it Up

If you aren’t attached to the whole map, or only want to feature part of it, cut it up!

I cut up pieces of the park map for my Yosemite scrapbook layout — still one of my favorite pages ever.

Maps in Scrapbooks by Natalie Parker

I took two different maps from our honeymoon and cut them the same size as other ephemera and photos to make everything meld together:

Maps in Scrapbooks by Natalie Parker

Don’t Have a Map?  Print One.

What if you want to add a map but you didn’t bring one home?  Print one!  Check out here for instructions on how to print Google Maps for your scrapbook.  I used a Google Map below for when we moved to a new apartment.

Maps in Scrapbooks by Natalie Parker

Don’t forget to check out transit agency websites.  They sometimes have really cool printable PDFs.  Below, I used a square I printed from a Manhattan Bus map.

Maps in Scrapbooks by Natalie Parker

Do you collect maps when you travel?  What do you use them for?

Finding Paper & Design Stores When Traveling

Dublin Creative Quarter

I love design shopping on the road.  It’s one of the best ways to see unique items I won’t find at home.

I’m always on the lookout for shops that sell stationary, gifts, goods by local artists, or well-curated home goods.  Put another way: cool stuff that I don’t have to try on.

It can be challenging to find stores that I want to visit.  If only Googling “cool design-y stores” would work!

How to Find Cool Shops When You Travel

Search your favorite crafty bloggers who travel.  There are tons of crafty ladies who travel.  I visit my favorite blogs and search for a city to see if they have any recommendations.  I found Material in London from Kelly Purkey.

Mine the websites of your favorite paper designers.  Many paper goods designers will list stores that stock their products.  Rifle Paper Co.’s stockist list is a gold mine for this — I used their list to help suss out shops when I had an afternoon to myself in Portland.  Sugar Paper also publishes a list.

I love a museum gift shop.  Museum gift shops are always so well-curated.  There’s nothing wrong with hitting up the shop if you don’t have time for the museum!  Modern art and design museums are especially good for this.

Trust the brain at Google Maps.  If you find a store you like and search for it on Google Maps in your browser, Google will show you similar shops in the area.  It’s not always perfect and works way better with restaurants, but it does help!  Note: I’ve only seen this work on a desktop browser, not on the mobile version of Maps.

If all else fails, Google it.  Sometimes I’ll search “paper store” or “stationary store” just to see what I get.  That’s how I found this great paper tour of Paris by Damask Love.

Do you have any tried and true secrets for finding good shops?  Please share!

At the Personal Digital Archiving Conference, Again

Personal Digital Archiving Conference at NYU by Natalie Parker

On my way home from my month in London, I put on my grad student hat and stopped in New York City to attend the 2015 Personal Digital Archiving Conference.

This is the second year I’ve attended (see my thoughts from last year here).  In addition to being a huge boost to listen to people studying the same issues I am, I always hear so many good thoughts applicable to scrapbookers.

I’ve gone over my notes and picked out some interesting things.

Big Thoughts

These are paraphrased from my notes and are not actual quotes.

Don Perry: We need to be considering the archives we are creating now as things people in the future will look to to understand the past.  The impetus for taking the photograph today is the same as in 1840 when someone sat in a studio to make a daguerreotype. It is to capture something.  The photograph is a distilled version of one persons heart.

Jessica Bushey: The smartphone is the preferred device for taking photos. The function of photos is shifting from a snapshot to remember or to create a permanent record to a digital trace that communicates an experience that is quickly consumed and forgotten.

While on the surface it seems like Perry and Bushey disagree with each other, I don’t think that’s the case.  While I do think that more of today’s photos are ephemeral (do you want the picture I took of a price tag at Target?), I think at least some of the photos we take today will fit Perry’s definition as we age.

Julie Swierczek: There is too much emphasis on big data and not enough small scale description.  It doesn’t matter how many millions of women describe themselves as mothers on Facebook.  But, if you talked to a handful of mothers, that would be interesting.  Don’t forget the personal.

Swierczek’s comments about small scale really resonated with me.  Sometimes I wonder what’s the point of my scrapbooking when I’m just one person in this huge world.  She reminded me that stories on a small scale matter.

Other Bits

Todd Wemmer emphasized audio in memory keeping.  He played a clip of his kids playing at the beach that he said he wouldn’t trade for all his photos.  They weren’t even my kids and I was very moved by the experience of listening to them.  Listen to clips he’s collected of all sorts of people here.  It’s amazing to hear people tell their stories.

Sarah Severson showed us how she used Picasa and WordPress to create an online family archive.  I was totally blown away and need to get on this!

Joel Neville Anderson shared the Photohoku project with us, an effort to provide photographs and albums to people who lost everything in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster in Japan.  The idea is to help people restart their family albums.

So much good stuff here!

In addition to being a scrapbooker and a traveler, I’m also studying to be an archivist.  I’m currently researching what regular people do with their photos.  To read more of my posts about archives for scrapbookers, click here.

Ephemera Roundup: Scrapbooking with Tickets

Scrapbook Pages with Tickets by Natalie Parker

Tickets are some of the most-used pieces of ephemera in my scrapbooks.  I think I’m the only one on this planet that gets sad when we have to use print-at-home tickets because they’re not nearly as cool for my scrapbook.

I’m always on the lookout for new ways to feature tickets.  I’ve looked around before for ideas and I find that more often than not, I see a lot of fake tickets.  I mean fake in the sense that scrapbooking companies will often sell old-looking fake tickets as an embellishment.  Why use a fake ticket when real tickets are so awesome?

I’ve gathered a bunch of my ticket layouts to show you how I use real tickets in my scrapbook.

Theatre Tickets

Scrapbook Pages with Tickets by Natalie Parker

Christmas Play

Scrapbook Pages with Tickets by Natalie Parker

Metropolitan Opera

Museums & Attractions

Scrapbook Pages with Tickets by Natalie Parker

New York Museums

Scrapbook Pages with Tickets by Natalie Parker

National Baseball Hall of Fame

Football Season Tickets

Football Season Scrapbook Layout by Natalie Parker

2006 Football Season

Baseball Tickets

Scrapbook Pages with Tickets by Natalie Parker

Giants Games

Scrapbook Pages with Tickets by Natalie Parker

Yankee Game

Other Sporting Events

USC Football Roadtrip Scrapbook Layout by Natalie Parker

USC Football Roadtrip

Football Roadtrip Scrapbook Layout by Natalie Parker

Tennessee Football Roadtrip

Concert Tickets

Scrapbook Pages with Tickets by Natalie Parker

Concert Before Our Wedding

Lots of Tickets Mixed Together

Scrapbook Pages with Tickets by Natalie Parker

Seeing Shows

Clearly, I like using tickets in layouts.  I hope this inspires you to do the same!

To see all of my layouts that use tickets, click here.

How to Include Ephemera in Your Scrapbook

Scrapbook Ephemera Tips by Natalie Parker

I start each scrapbook by reviewing my time capsule box of ephemera and organizing it (more on that process here).  I won’t use everything but including ephemera is very important to me.

I’ve combed through my scrapbook archives and put together a bunch of tips in case you want to start including more ephemera in your scrapbooks!

Make it Part of a Cohesive Design

This is always my first choice: design the page around the ephemera and make it seamless.  I did this with one of my honeymoon pages.

Scrapbook Ephemera Tips by Natalie Parker

I designed it so everything on the page was the size of a standard business card, including the photos and text block.

Another example: Bay to Breakers (using my race bib).

Cut it Up

Sometimes I’m not too attached to the piece as a whole but I want just some of it on the page.

My favorite example of this is how I took a stack of college assignments and tests and cut them up into squares to make a layout.

Scrapbook Ephemera Tips by Natalie Parker

A single assignment on its own didn’t matter much.  I was trying to create a feeling of how much work I did and cutting them up did the trick!

More examples: Wedding Dress Shopping (cut up bridesmaid dress swatch), Big Game Week 2006 (cut up parking pass), New York Trip Title Page (cut up maps and luggage claim tags).

Make an Envelope or Pouch

Sometimes a piece can’t be glued down by itself.  Maybe it’s too fragile, or maybe it needs to be held together in some way.

For my wedding favors, I created vellum envelopes and glued those to the page.

Scrapbook Ephemera Tips by Natalie Parker

The favors were stacks of recipe  cards.  It wouldn’t have made sense to staple the cards together and it would have taken too much room to glue each card separately.  The envelope keeps them together and safe.

Another example: Big Game 2002 (creating a pouch to hold grass).

Scan It

This works great for items that are too large to go in the scrapbook.  I do this a lot with posters.

For Big Game Week my senior year of college, I scanned the Bonfire Rally poster.

Scrapbook Ephemera Tips by Natalie Parker

Another example: Football Season 2003 (scanned Homecoming poster and magnet).

Turn it Into a Backdrop

Similar to when I cut pieces up, using a piece of ephemera as a backdrop works if you aren’t too attached to it as a whole but want it on the page.

I used a map of the San Diego Zoo in this layout about our day there with my sister-in-law and niece.

Scrapbook Ephemera Tips by Natalie Parker

Another example: Golden Gate Bridge (with map of Presidio as backdrop).

Make a Collage

I love making collages!  This works very well when there are lots of bits and pieces.  Together they can tell a great story.

I created a collage with leftover bits of ephemera from 2004 and turned it into the end page for that book.

Scrapbook Ephemera Tips by Natalie Parker

I love how it shows little things that we were up to.

Another example: College Intro Page (collage out of course catalog pages).

Highlight It

Sometimes the piece of ephemera is the star of the show — it is the story.

I made this layout about the very first recipe we cooked together.

Scrapbook Ephemera Tips by Natalie Parker

More examples: Graduation Invitations, Wedding Invitations, Seeing Shows (programs + tickets).

Use Just Part of It

This works really well with magazines or newspapers.  In my college basketball layout, I included just the magazine cover.

Scrapbook Ephemera Tips by Natalie Parker

Another example: Football Season 2004 (magazine cover).

Photograph It

Sometimes you can’t take things home.  Sometimes things are three-dimensional.  Using a picture works well here.

I did this with my wedding favors page.  We gave away chocolate picture frames (totally not going to fit in the scrapbook), so I used a picture of them in the layout.

Scrapbook Ephemera Tips by Natalie Parker

This idea also works really well for foreign currency!  I like taking pictures of cash before we spend it.

If All Else Fails

It can be hard to work ephemera into a layout.  It’s a fixed size and sometimes it doesn’t play well with everything else on the page.

If that happens, ask yourself: is it important to the story?  If no, you don’t have to include it.  You don’t have to include everything.  If yes, then include it, even if the design isn’t great.  Remember my rules: the story is always more important than the design.

Scrapbook Ephemera Tips by Natalie Parker

I like to think of my name change scrapbook layout as an example.  I still don’t love it.  The design is blehhh.  But, changing to my married name was a big deal and I wanted to tell the story.  There was no way I was leaving out my Social Security letter (the first thing ever printed with my married name) or my old ID card (even if the picture isn’t flattering.

If all else fails, just go with it!

I hope this inspires you to add more ephemera in your scrapbooks!!

How to Start Scrapbooking

How to Start Scrapbooking by Natalie Parker

Earlier we talked about how to find the right memory keeping system for you.  I happen to scrapbook.

Why?  It’s a combination of liking memory keeping and visual design.  Two hobbies for the price of one really.  I enjoy the process of designing pages just as much as the result.

But what exactly is a scrapbook?

A Place to Record Memories

Technically, according to Oxford, a scrapbook is:  “a book of blank pages for sticking clippings, drawings, or pictures in.”

To me a scrapbook is a place to record your memories.

That’s it.  There are no rules about what order you must scrapbook things in (or that you must do it out of order), what you have to document, or what level of detail you have to include.

Do you just have photos glued to a page with some handwriting?  That’s a scrapbook.  Do you have some drawings of loved ones and recorded memories about them?  I’m looking at you, Katniss and Peeta.  That’s a scrapbook.

The Formula

So if we understand this:

scrapbook = recorded memories

What “recorded memories” is made up of is entirely up to you.

For me, it looks something like this:

recorded memories = story + design ± photos ± ephemera

Most of the time my pages have photos.  Sometimes they don’t.  Sometimes I have ephemera saved, sometimes I don’t.

See a pattern?  It’s less about having a system and more about doing what you want and can do.

What do I need to start scrapbooking?

Good question.  Just start with the basics.  You will need:

A book with pages.  I personally prefer the old-school look of 11×14.  The standard is 12×12.  That is getting unseated a bit by pocket-page scrapbooking.  Still others keep to 8.5×11 or even smaller.  See how this can get complicated really fast?  I know.

Consider what you actually want to put in the book.  If you think you’ll need a lot of room for clippings/ephemera or writing, consider going with something larger.  You can always change later.

Stuff to put in the book.  Most people will include photos but they’re not required.  I print my photos at home.  Others order online or pick up at drugstores.  Either works!  I include ephemera and alternate between handwriting and typing my thoughts.  Sometimes I write long stories, sometimes I don’t.

Adhesive to stick the stuff to the pages.  Read about my preferred adhesives here.

Your style will evolve.  And that’s cool.  I love scrapbookers who have a very distinct point of view whose work I could pick out of a lineup.  But my work isn’t like that.  I’m constantly changing and trying new things.  It’s okay to not have a set design aesthetic.

It’s a good idea to make sure most of your stuff is acid free.  Don’t stress too much about it.  If you ever wanted to know how acid and lignin gets into paper and why it matters, I wrote a post about it here.

Where do I start?

I wouldn’t worry so much about finding the exact right place to start.  Just start.

I scrapbook chronologically, so I’m always looking for the natural beginning when I start a new book.  But that’s because I’m crazy-pants and would get the twitches otherwise.

Remember when I talked about how to become a world traveler?  You just go.  Don’t worry about planning the perfect thing or waiting for the right time.  Just go.

The same is true for starting to scrapbook.  Don’t wait for the right supplies, right story, right beginning, or right anything.  Just start.  Progress is better than perfection.

How to Start Scrapbooking by Natalie Parker