All posts by Henry Hebert

Don’t Put That In Your Scrapbook

The holidays are upon us and that means it is the season for parties, family get-togethers, and making memories. There will inevitably be photographs and keepsakes from these events, and you may at some point consider gathering them together in a photo album or scrapbook. Before you begin, however, let us take a look at some historical examples so that you can avoid the mistakes of our scrapbooking-forebears.

Duke, like many research libraries, holds a large number of scrapbooks and photo albums across our collections. Scrapbooks are complex objects and they frequently come to the conservation lab to address inherent problems with the materials or housing issues. Usually, we find some pretty strange objects inside as well. A student scrapbook from the 1940s recently arrived in the lab which perfectly illustrates five common and problematic conditions.

No. 1: Tape

Evil tape
Evil tape

There are so many varieties of pressure sensitive tape and, because it is a very convenient way to attach materials to pages, we encounter it all the time on collection material. Unfortunately, adhesive tapes do not age well and can exhibit a number of problems, such as discoloration, adhesive creep, or even adhesive failure. Tape can stain the items it touches (like the white tabs on the felt flag above) or cause pages to stick together. A better option is to use a simple and reversible attachment method, such as photo corners. Stable plastics such as polyester, polyethylene, or polypropylene are preferred.

No. 2: Glitter

Glitter

This one is more social etiquette than preservation practice: When you add glitter to your scrapbook,  you give the gift of glitter to every person who looks at your scrapbook until the end of time. It is literally all over my bench as I write this.

No. 3: Perishable Items

Flower
This was once a flower.

Flowers and candy may hold many memories, but they are not so compatible with scrapbooks. Like tape, perishables can either discolor the pages and items around them or adhere pages together. These items may also be attractive to insects or mold, potentially compromising the entire scrapbook and putting other items in the collection at risk. Photographs of the flowers will function a little better in the book.

Cigar

Strangely, tobacco products, like cigars or cigarettes are also commonplace in historic scrapbooks. Use of tobacco products in general seems to be declining, so maybe we will stop seeing this in more modern scrapbooks that come into our collection. If the urge does strike you, however, I would suggest just including the wrapper or packaging (like the Lucky Strikes on the left, above), rather than an entire cigar (as on the right).

No. 4: Rocks (Or really any hard, pointy object)

Yep, that is a rock taped to a page.
Yep, that’s a rock taped to a page.

Books are not the best containers for three-dimensional objects. In addition to distorting the entire book, pointy objects can pierce through facing pages and damage the attached photographs or ephemera. Heavier objects can even tear support pages from the book. Objects like this will be much happier in a box.

No. 5: Large format materials

Whole Newspaper
A whole newspaper tucked inside and actually in remarkable shape for its age.

In a similar vein, larger format pages, such as whole newspapers or large posters, may not survive well when folded up and tucked inside a scrapbook. The bulk of the folded piece can strain the scrapbook binding. Some papers become very brittle as they age and may crack along the folds- especially as they are unfolded and refolded with use. These items are better left out of the book and stored flat.

Scrapbooks can be important cultural artifacts. I hope that in this digital age people continue to make them and that they will eventually make their way into library and archives collections. But I also hope that they do not contain so much tape.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Welcome To Our New Staff: Henry Hebert

Henry HebertIn early August, just as the final move back into the renovated space was taking place, Henry Hebert joined Conservation Services as the new Conservator for Special Collections. Henry is no stranger to the lab, having worked on the circulating collection as a graduate student several years ago.

I always ask our new staff about their favorite conservation project. Here’s Henry’s favorite:

While working as a contractor at Baker Library at the Harvard Business School, I was able to assist with treatment of the United Fruit Company Photograph Collection. The collection is composed of around 10,000 photographs documenting the company’s extensive banana production and shipping operations in Central and South America. Every day brought new and exciting photographs – everything from serpentariums to stone ruins in the jungle. The working condition on the farms were harsh and some of the images of workers were quite haunting. Through this project I learned that the story behind your typical grocery store banana is far more strange and interesting than you would ever think.

Henry holds a masters degree in library science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a diploma in hand bookbinding from the North Bennet Street School. Following graduation, he served as the Von Clemm Fellow in Book Conservation at the Boston Athenaeum. Henry returns to North Carolina from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he was the Rare Book Conservator.

Welcome back to Duke, Henry!