A review from the News Dispatch, 4 June 2006
SCRAPBOOKS ... trails that lead to fascinating history
The Scrapbook in American
Story by Amanda Haverstick
Some people spend hours carefully crafting their scrapbooks, but others spend hours researching them. Since the late 1980s, Patricia Buckler, an associate professor of English at Purdue University-North Central, has been studying what people put on the pages of their scrapbooks. "(A scrapbook) gives us a look at what was done in the past," Buckler said. "Each scrapbook is tailored by the person who made it."
Buckler, along with Susan Tucker and Katherine Ott, has edited a new book that looks at the history of scrapbooks, The Scrapbook in American Life. "It's everywhere," Buckler said of scrapbooking. "Everybody has done it forever." Her interest in scrapbooks began after looking through the contents of a family scrapbook from the 1840s. "I started out researching a scrapbook from my husband's family that was given to him when his father died," Buckler said. The scrapbook, which was actually in pieces, contained clippings of poems, hand painted pictures of birds and a clipping of opera singer Jenny Lind.
Buckler started looking for scrapbooks from the same period in other places. She visited a number of universities that had scrapbooks in their collections. "I started on ante-bellum scrapbooks," she said. "I didn't want to get involved in photo albums."
During her research Buckler came in contact with Tucker, who is curator of Books and Records at the Newcomb College Center for Research on Women at Tulane University. Tucker, she found, had done some research on scrapbooks. "The next time I was in New Orleans we got together," Buckler said. "We talked about the different aspects of scrapbooks. We decided we wanted to do a book on scrapbooks."
She also came in contact with Ott, who is curator in the Division of Science and Medicine at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. Buckler said she was curious as to who made scrapbooks and what region they came from. "We thought at first more women would be keeping scrapbooks than men," Buckler said. "We, however, found a lot of men kept scrapbooks." Buckler said men tended to make themed scrapbooks relating to their profession or history. "I saw one kept by some man in Georgia. He kept clippings in the scrapbook of engagements of a Civil War unit that came from his town," Buckler said.
Women's scrapbooks, said Buckler, were more personal and included souvenirs like dance cards and handmade items. "(There were) souvenirs from special events in their lives," Buckler said. "Young women were collecting print portraits of famous people. They would come like a bonus in magazines." Women's scrapbooks also included a good amount of clippings. "It was a very literate culture," Buckler said. "They clipped articles about being a good wife, being a good mother and how to do things in the home in a better way."
In her research, Buckler found a set of scrapbooks in the Pennsylvania Historical Society that contained articles on the Mexican War from 1846 to 1848. "It was a real treasure trove of information," Buckler said.
Organizations keep scrapbooks and many people, said Buckler, have kept
family scrapbooks. "A lot of them have never been put in archives,"
Buckler said. "A lot of them we haven't been able to see."
"I think the idea is the same ‹ to preserve in book form memories of special people and special events," Buckler said. "It's a $5 billion business today. There are all kinds of groups that get together to do what they call crops."
Buckler, who ironically does not have a scrapbook, said she has enjoyed her research. "It feels good to have done some so-called ground-breaking research," Buckler said.
The Scrapbook in American Life, Temple University Press, edited by Patricia Buckler, Susan Tucker and Katherine Ott, is available at $25.95 at The Bookstore at Lighthouse Place Premium Outlets.
Contact reporter Amanda Haverstick at email@example.com.