A New Solution for an Old Scrapbook

Take a look at this new preservation solution for scrapbooks that are from Elizabeth C. Reed, wife of National Zoological Park’s (NZP) Director Theodore H. Reed.

Green book cover with gold writing.The Archives recently received several scrapbooks created by Elizabeth C. Reed during her husband's tenure as Director of the National Zoological Park (NZP). These scrapbooks contain information about noteworthy events and consist mostly of newspaper clippings gathered from newspapers around the country.

 Anyone who's attempted to preserve scrapbooks can tell you it's a bit of a challenge. They contain different types of materials - papers, photographs, objects, poor-quality adhesives, problematic binding structures, etc. They are inherently unique, frequently documenting a person's perspective of historical events making them extremely important to preserve. These particular scrapbooks were no exception.

All of the scrapbooks were commercially produced and had identical mechanical bindings that consisted of two plastic posts secured through two holes in the spine edge, a type of post binding. The entire scrapbook was then held together by a woven nylon cord with aglets.    

There were several factors to take into consideration when determining the appropriate treatment for these scrapbooks. The primary goals were to provide added support for the textblock to prevent damage during handling and to mitigate future deterioration of the groundwood paper pages. Since we anticipate that these scrapbooks will be accessed somewhat frequently by researchers, it was important to maintain them in bound form to prevent any dissociation or disarrangement of pages.

First, the scrapbook was taken apart by removing the nylon cord and plastic posts.

 Green book cover with gold writing and page with newspaper clippings.

Next, interleaving paper (acid-free, buffered, 80 lb. weight) was cut to just slightly larger than the interior pages, about 1/8" on all sides. This protects the edges, and reduces direct handling of the original pages.

 Book page with black and white newspaper clippings.

Additionally, the heavyweight interleaving provides added support for the brittle groundwood paper. Using a hole punch, each interleaving sheet was given two hole punches that aligned with the holes in the spine and textblock of the scrapbook. A piece of interleaving was then placed between each scrapbook page.

 Book pages with board in between.

The plastic posts provided most of the support for the interior pages, so we needed to come up with a replacement that would fully replicate that support. Using archival E-flute corrugated board, a "spine wrap" was created. First, the depth of the interleaved textblock was measured to determine the needed depth of the wrap, followed by the height of the textblock. To accurately measure the depth, the textblock was gently depressed. This ensured a snug fit for the wrap.

 Gray board with measurements.

Once the spine wrap was measured and cut, the top and bottom sections were folded up, and the side tabs were secured using low melt glue. Hole punches were placed in the spine wrap to align with the textblock, and then the textblock was carefully placed in the wrap to check for fit. The original covers were then placed back on the text block and secured using an 8-ply Irish hemp cord. The completed scrapbook still provides easy access as it mimics its original structure, but any poor quality materials have been isolated from one another or completely removed.


The textblock is fit into the corrugated board spine wrap. Image courtesy of Alison Reppert Gerber.

The interleaving creates a safer way to handle the interior pages of the scrapbook. Image courtesy of Alison Reppert Gerber.

The corners of the spine wrap are secured using low melt glue. Image courtesy of Alison Reppert Gerber.

All of the hole punches should align to properly secure the cover boards. Image courtesy of Alison Reppert Gerber.

The scrapbook can now be handled safely, and still retains its original form. Image courtesy of Alison Reppert Gerber.

The completed scrapbook is now secured using an 8-ply Irish hemp cord. Accession 17-240: Elizabeth C. Reed Papers, 1960-1978, Smithsonian Institution Archives. Image courtesy of Alison Reppert Gerber.

Though these scrapbooks will continue to deteriorate due to the poor quality and unstable materials found within, this treatment will help to mitigate some of the deterioration while still providing access to the original materials.

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