The Cherished Tradition of Scrapbooking

Author Jessica Helfand investigates the history of scrapbooks and how they mirror American history

Graphic designer Jessica Helfand collected over 200 scrapbooks dating from the nineteenth century to the present. (Scrapbooks: An American History / Yale University Press)

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As journalists, we’re all wondering whether the print newspaper and magazine will survive the digital age. Do you think the tangible scrapbook will survive in the advent of digital cameras, blogs and Facebook?

I hope they won’t disappear. I personally think there is nothing that replaces the tactile—the way they smell, the way they look, the dried flowers. There’s just something really amazing about seeing a fabric sample from 1921 in a book when you haven’t ever seen a piece of fabric that color before. There’s a certain recognition about yourself and about your world when you see something that no longer exists. When it’s on the screen, it’s a little less of that immersive experience. At the same time, if there is a way to keep scrapbooking relevant, move it forward, make it be a satellite of its former self and move into some new zone and become something else, then that’s a progressive way of thinking about it moving into the next generation.


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