Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A new home for an old scrapbook

Greetings from the Preservation Lab! My name is Elizabeth Roscio, and I've been on the job as the Preservation Librarian for just a few months. In this role, my primary responsibility is to work to ensure the optimal lifespan for the materials in our collection. One way that I do that is to re-house items that are in enclosures that are detrimental to their condition or that need a little bit more stability. Recently, an item just like this made its way to the lab.

The item in question was a scrapbook of photographs taken when General Douglas MacArthur visited Massachusetts on July 25 and 26, 1951 (Scrapbook 60). These photographs documented his visit and depict various parades and receptions that were held in his honor throughout the Commonwealth. Each black and white photograph is approximately 8" x 10" and had been stapled onto the pages of the scrapbook, which was problematic for a few reasons. Staples cause damage to photographs and documents not only because they cause pinprick holes, but because the staples can rust and then transfer onto the item. Additionally, the pages that the photographs were adhered to were acidic and would become brittle over time, and would not provide a stable backing for long-term storage. I decided that the best way to preserve the photographs would be to remove them from the scrapbook and re-house them in plastic sleeves.


When removing staples from an item, it is important to do it carefully and slowly so that you don't cause any additional tearing. We've probably all used a staple remover at some point, and this process is similar but a little bit more technical. I began by turning the page over to its back so that I could access the staple prongs, and then I used a micro spatula to carefully lift each prong up. With both prongs lifted to a perpendicular angle, I could safely pull the staple out of the photograph. Once the photograph was free of the paper backing, I slid it into a plastic sleeve. As I was working on the scrapbook, I noticed that the pages did not include any sort of inscriptions, autographs, or captions. Since that was the case, the acidic pages and the front and back covers could be discarded after the photographs were removed. If the original scrapbook material had contained extra information about the photographs, then I would have had to preserve those pages, too.


After the photographs were removed from the scrapbook, they needed a new enclosure for long-term storage. I measured the length, width, and height of the stack of photographs and made a clamshell box out of corrugated board. Now that this collection has been re-housed in a stable enclosure, we've not only extended its life, but made it easier and safer for researchers to handle.

Elizabeth Roscio
Preservation Librarian