Monday, August 22, 2011

Saving Scrapbooks for History

If you want to see an archivist cringe (but who would?), hand her a scrapbook. Sure, scrapbooks are often full of artifacts, but items are likely to tear and crumble at the slightest touch.

In the archiving projects undertaken by, we’ve helped rescue more than a few scrapbooks that illuminate company history. One yielded a telegram from Teddy Roosevelt to flag company executive Louis Annin Ames. It’s not a document that will change the course of American history, but we and the Annin company were excited to discover it. (Annin & Co., Inc., America’s oldest flag maker, is still going strong into the sixth generation.)

With this in mind, it was heartening to read that Woody Guthrie’s scrapbooks are being restored thanks to an $80,000 grant from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services. Apparently the great songwriter saved everything from letters to lyrics to utility bills. Better yet, you can even decipher his handwriting (he trained as a sign painter in his youth). Pages from the albums will illustrate an upcoming book about Guthrie by his daughter Nora, and the Guthrie Foundation and Archives hopes to mount a traveling display soon. Guthrie would have turned 100 in 2013.