About this project
The digitized scrapbook and its accompanying digital exhibit were completed as a culminating Master of Art’s capstone project for the Archives and Public History Program at New York University. The goal of this project was to gain a better understanding about scrapbooks and how they can be used to uncover different histories, as well as providing access to the scrapbook. The 1922 scrapbook was completely digitized prior to creating this exhibit. Access and preservation files of the scrapbook pages were created and saved. Extensive research was conducted in order to provide context to the photographs and ephemera found on the pages of the scrapbook. The digital exhibit draws attention to a unique part of the history of the Archdiocese of New York. It also showcases one of the many scrapbooks that can be found and used for research at the Archdiocesan Archives.
I am Elizabeth Alleva and in May 2015 I will receive a Master of Art’s degree in Archives and Public History from New York University. I am a native New Yorker, but I spent four years in Baltimore, MD where I received a Bachelor of Art’s degree in history from Loyola University Maryland. I am an avid reader and I love to travel. I have spent the past two years working at the Archives of the Archdiocese of New York as an Archives intern, where I first came across the intriguing Cardinal Hayes’ scrapbooks. Starting in June 2015, I will be the Assistant Archivist at the Archdiocesan Archives.
Scrapbooks have been an interesting part of the American historical record for centuries and have been used by men, women, and children of all social classes. The Society of American Archivists defines a scrapbook as “A blank book, often with a simple string binding, used to store a variety of memorabilia, such as clippings, pictures, and photographs.” Scrapbooks have been equated to other forms such as the early commonplace books , albums, and in some cases diaries. Despite what they are called, they are all placeholders of memory through the act of collecting materials that create some sort of narrative. Materials that are commonly found in scrapbooks are photographs, newspaper clippings, and ephemeral material such as event tickets, postcards, and event programs. Scrapbooks have come to mean many things to its different users and creators. Some scrapbooks have been made for strategic purposes, like early women activists who were trying to document their place in history. Other scrapbooks have been used as the final resting place for materials gathered from a specific event that was of great importance to its creator.
Scrapbooks began to appear in great quantities during the 19th century, a result of an increase in literacy rates and in the production of circulating newspapers. The scrapbook’s popularity also increased when, in 1877, Mark Twain obtained a patent for his Self Pasting Scrap Book, signaling the commercialization of this practice of preserving memories. The scrapbook is a unique object as it becomes a personal archive for its creator. Materials are arranged in a particular order and for a particular reason by the author of the book. Ellen Gruber Garvey best describes the role of the scrapbook in her book Writing with Scissors: “making scrapbooks both saved a record or archive of materials and performed archivalness: the act of cutting and pasting demonstrates the seriousness with which the clipper perceives the article and allows the clipper to experience of making a record.” Scrapbooks are able to visually represent information that their creators found important enough to preserve.
The visual representation of scrapbooks has transformed to accommodate the digital age. Many scrapbooks are now presented digitally through the internet. These scrapbooks can be interactive or just a simple presentation of the different pages of the scrapbook. It is important to maintain the overall look and feel of a scrapbook when digitizing it. A scrapbook should be perceived as an object that is made up of many parts, but does not make sense unless these parts are represented together. The digitization of scrapbooks is a great option for an institution as it provides access to a larger audience and preserves the scrapbook from increased handling and damage.
Scrapbooks can have numerous preservation challenges because of the many types of materials found in them. Additionally, the paper quality of scrapbooks in many cases is highly acidic and could be damaging the materials inside. There are also no standards for describing scrapbooks in archival collections. Researchers increasingly acknowledge, however, that scrapbooks have value as a physical form as well as for their informational content. They offer an opportunity to see the way their creators think through the materials that were selected for preservation, and the way they were arranged throughout the book. Scrapbooks thus have a high intrinsic value as material objects that were created with a purpose. They should receive attention from archivists and be included in archival collections. Their peculiar and unique individual histories make them worth preserving.
The Cardinal’s Visit to the Bahamas Scrapbook
The Cardinal’s Visit to the Bahamas-1922 scrapbook, as well as the other scrapbooks from Cardinal Hayes collection, are great examples of unique archival objects. They were created after the event occurred and by an outside party, Mother Polycarpa, O.S.D.. Mother Polycarpa was a Sister of St. Dominic who was a friend of Cardinal Hayes. She worked at St. Joseph’s Sanatorium in Sullivan County, NY as mother superior and as postmistress. The materials found in these scrapbooks include photographs, newspaper clippings, and ephemera that Mother Polycarpa collected about the different trips. Some of the material, such as the postcards that are found in this particular scrapbook, were sent directly to Mother Polycarpa from the Bahamas. Other items, including the photographs, must have been given to Mother Polycarpa after the Archdiocesan party returned from their trip. The 1922 scrapbook is a complex one, as there are no captions for any of the items it contains. This leaves it to the user to conduct outside research in order to gain a better understanding of the scrapbook’s context. At the same time, the scrapbook is a great companion to the history of the Archdiocese of New York in the Bahamas. It is visually engaging and allows its users to physically see what the trip entailed. This particular scrapbook still contains many mysteries. Toward the end of the scrapbook, for example, there are pages with pictures that are clearly not from Hayes’ 1922 trip to the Bahamas. Since there is no documentation concerning how the scrapbook was assembled, the reasons why Mother Polycarpa pasted these images in this book invite speculation.