Help me preserve Grandma's travel scrapbook
September 26, 2009 1:02 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for tips and best practices for scanning the contents of my grandmother's scrapbook.

I have my grandmother's excellent scrapbook. It's filled with souvenirs of her life and travels in the US in the 1920s and 30s: snapshots (mostly black-and-white, some sepia - either by design or due to fading); train tickets; menus; postcards; newspaper clippings. And so on. These are mementos of trips to Banff, and San Francisco (before the Golden Gate Bridge was built), and Los Angeles, and DC, and other places.

The pages are held together with a cord looped through two grommets; the photos and other items are held in with either glue or those little photo corners; many items are captioned in white ink.

I have access to a large flatbed scanner. I'd like to be able to scan the entire page when possible, at a large enough resolution that I can go back and crop individual photos and captions if I want to.

I don't know enough about this process to even know quite what questions to ask. What resolution? With photos or other items that are easily detachable from the page, should I just scan them separately (but that would lose some context - most of these are grouped together by event or time period). If you've done a project like this yourself, what do you wish you'd known before you started?
posted by rtha to Media & Arts (3 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: This is probably like pointing a bazooka at an anthill (or some other more appropriate metaphor) but you might want to have a look at the Olive Ruby Henty scrapbook project at Simmons College. The "About the Project" page is fairly informative. You probably don't want to teach yourself how to use Greenstone or another digital library software, but their recommendations on scanning and creating metadata might be of value to you. They scanned individual objects and whole pages to preserve context. When the object couldn't be removed from the page, they took a more detailed scan of the object itself.

If I were doing this for myself without digital library software, I would probably make a folder for each page (and label the folder Page_1, Page_2, and so on) and within the folder I would have a file for the entire page and then a file for each separate object. I would use TIFF as my file format. And I'd be sure to back up the data and to burn the files onto a CD or a DVD at least once a year, and to label the media carefully so I knew what was on it. And I'd keep my ears out regarding TIFF standards so that if in the future it became less viable, I'd know to convert my files into a better format (although hopefully this will not happen).
posted by k8lin at 2:00 PM on September 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

I should have said this in my last comment, but I'd scan at 600 dpi resolution using a 24-bit color depth if possible. They mention this on the "About the Project" page but I wanted to reiterate it here since it directly answers your question.
posted by k8lin at 2:01 PM on September 26, 2009

Best answer: I also wanted to ask you why you are scanning the scrapbook. Is it for preservation purposes -- so that you, your family, or perhaps historians and researchers are able to access it in the future -- as your title suggests? If that's your main goal, scanning is not the way to go. If you are mainly hoping to, say, share it online using flickr and make it accessible to other people, scanning is a great idea. But it will probably be easier to preserve the scrapbook in its current form, because digital data dies quickly and you will have to constantly manage it (every time you get a new computer, you'll have to move the files over and make sure they work; every year or so, you'll have to burn the files onto a new CD and make sure the CD works; when people are no longer using CDs, you'll have to figure out the new format and use that instead; you will have to clearly label the CDs and be able to find them -- this is a lot more work than it sounds like).

Scrapbooks are one of the hardest things to preserve because there are so many different materials involved -- acidic paper (you say there are newspaper clippings in there, which are going to be highly acidic and have probably leeched the papers surrounding them), metal pieces holding it together, nasty glue, and just the variety of objects actually pasted inside. You might want to consider preservation photocopying instead of preservation scanning if preservation is your primary purpose. The Library of Congress has some good information on preservation photocopying. This page is geared towards libraries but it should be helpful. You could also scan and print the scans onto non-acidic paper if you don't want to hunt down a good color copier.

You might also want to look at some of the other information from the Library of Congress: Preparing, Protecting, and Preserving Family Treasures and Preservation of Scrapbooks and Albums might be of particular interest to you.
posted by k8lin at 6:59 PM on September 28, 2009

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