Scrapbooks Help to Display a Family's Visual History

by Bob Brooke

Scrapbooks have been a popular way to preserve visual memories since the 19th century or even earlier. Whether they're just a few pages bound together with string or more elaborate affairs with leather embossed covers, scrapbooks are an essential part of family history for many folks.

A scrapbook is a popular and appealing way to present a family history and also makes a favorite gift for relatives. Full-page pedigree charts can be mounted in the front and the rest can be filled with written narratives and anecdotes about the family, pictures of ancestors and family homes, newspaper clippings, wedding invitations, letters, maps and similar documents.

The trick to a good genealogical scrapbook is selectivity. While there may be many documents and photos for some ancestors, there may be few for others. Select items that give life and flow to the story. Pick not only the most interesting ancestors but also the milestone events in their lives to represent in the scrapbook. Original photographs or drawings shouldn't be used in scrapbooks. Copies should be used instead.

Any documents or photographs on paper will deteriorate as time passes, but they can be preserved if they're properly stored and cared for. Keeping them in acid-free acetate envelopes is one way to forestall their deterioration. It's also possible to have documents laminated. However, the process is usually irreversible. Store papers in a cool, dry place. Avoid storage in hot attics or damp basements. Humidity is more destructive than dry heat, so the drier the better. Older documents are the most resilient, because older papers, often of 100 percent rag content, are generally more durable than newer papers made with synthetic fibers and chemical additives.

To avoid the problems of handling old photographs and documents and the dangers of humidity and dry heat, why not create a virtual scrapbook? With today's technology, even those with a basic knowledge of computers and scanners can produce a 21st-Century edition of their scrapbook to share with family members and friends, no matter where they live. By using a product called FlipAlbum, from eBook Systems, Inc., it's possible to create a scrapbook with pages that actually turn.

FlipAlbum's easy-to-use program allows family historians to place scanned documents and photographs on pages just as if they were doing it in a paper scrapbook. Only this type of scrapbook doesn't get frayed or damaged in use since this scrapbook can be viewed either online or from a CD.

Unlike traditional paper scrapbooks, creating one using FlipAlbum technology allows family genealogists to automatically create an album from a folder of scanned photos, drawings and documents, complete with a theme, consisting of a front and back cover, page and book backgrounds, and page separators. The FlipAlbum scrapbook can then be enhanced with borders, text, annotations, even sound and video, for those who wish to produce a super scrapbook. But the most unique part of creating an electronic scrapbook is that it can be searched just like a Web site, so viewers don't have to hunt for people or events. Based on eBook technology, which allows users to not only turn pages, but also to click on any item in the table of contents to go to any part of the book in a second, FlipAlbum allows the creation of double-page spreads and links to other sites on the Internet for more information. The basic program sells for $17.95 if downloaded from the Web or $19.95 by CD. A more advanced version sells for $25 from FlipAlbum.com (http://www.flipalbum.com).

Whichever method is used, it's important to identify any people in photographs or drawings. Some scrapbooks with unidentified photographs leave viewers wondering who was in the pictures or what was the special event. By showing old photographs at parties and family gatherings, some family members may be able to identify the people in them.

It's important to write the whom, what, where, when, and why, or at least part of this information for each photo or drawing. Most important are names of people. If possible, include first and last names of those people who aren't part of the family.

Many people's handwriting is practically illegible. Captions and other notations should be printed, or better yet, done on a computer. Computers can print smaller and neater and in a variety of lettering styles. Print the information on acid free cardstock. Once it's printed out, it can be backed with another color of cardstock to make it look better.

Many photos will have special stories behind them. Take the time to write these stories. Other people will enjoy looking through the scrapbook more if they can read the stories behind the pictures. These stories, whether they're long or short, can be placed on the same page as the photo or on the opposite one.

Besides documents, photographs and information about them, a good genealogical scrapbook should have other information about family members. This could be anecdotes and stories about particular family members or events, as well as honors and awards.

Empty scrapbooks can be purchased at office supply and craft stores or one can be custom designed by the folks at The Attic(www.atticalbums.com or 4401 Glenwood Dr., Scotts Valley, CA 95066 ) for $30 to $50. Other good scrapbook Web sites to visit are www.homeandcrafts.com and Scrap Happy(www.telepath.com/bcarson/scrap_happy), which offers ideas for layouts, fonts, alphabets, page starters, etc.

Scrapbooks are meant to be more than a picture book. They're meant to tell the story of a family's life. Stories need words so other people can enjoy them. Pictures alone don't tell the whole story.

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