PRT254 – Forward Slap

This week we’re talking about the importance of scrapbooking (according to a dissertation)…

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  • Paula Rowan

    I have always wondered what the title music is and where did it come from?

  • Leslie McLaughlin

    Great topic!!!! Loved this show!

  • Jess Forster

    Before the computer systems at work went down, (Blergh!) I wanted to mention that Hunt’s thesis made me think about topics that our modern scrapbook reflect. If looking at a variety of scrapbooks from many different people I think three prominent themes emerge.

    1. Life post 9/11.
    The psychology behind our memory keeping suggests we understand the fragility of life and our need to capture our personal narratives / family history. No doubt, modern scrapbooking has become more popular since 2001 and in its popularity peaking in 2006-2008.

    2. Motherhood / Parenting in the early 21 century.
    Not only do our scrapbooks show basic aspects of our daily routines; it also captures western society’s shift to be a child centred family. When you compare family life 100 years ago, child were considered little adults and just another person to help work the family farm or provide income to household. Many (not all) of our modern scrapbooks pages centre around childhood or the growing up process. From my knowledge, Children were generally not documented in early / Victorian scrapbooks.

    3. Recreation / Hobbies
    From pictures of the places we travel, to the books/movies/television shows we are reading/watching, to the large amounts of coffee we are drinking, our modern layouts show our desire to have fun and the large amounts of free time we have. It also depicts the rise of home arts / handmade as we scrapbook pictures about our scrapbooks.

    This is just my perspective. I’d loved to hear what themes you think our modern day scrapbooks reflect! :)

    Noell – thanks for compiling all the information and bring our attention to this interesting topic!

  • Gina

    First of all – I just love your show. I was going to listen to last week’s episode again while driving around for about 3 hours of chauffeuring my kids when I was ecstatic to see a new episode! Great episode. I feel like there is a lot of value in scrapbooking – both for our family and to see what life was like. My Dad kept a scrapbook as a kid of sports events important to him and I love looking through it. My daughter has asked me multiple times about what things were like when I was growing up and what types of things I liked to do. If I had kept a scrapbook (or not thrown away my journals!) I would be able to answer with more detail than my forgetful brain can manage. Thanks again for a fantastic podcast. I can’t wait until the next deep dive course!

  • Such interesting thoughts!! I’m so sorry they didn’t make it into the episode. Even comparing families now to families when I was a child we see that we are so child-centric now. In my day kids were always kicked outside to leave the parents alone, and life revolved more around what the parents were doing. And yes, we are a very leisure-oriented people, too. Again, when I was a kid, families did not go out to eat (maybe wealthy ones did, but not most of the rest of us). I remember what a privilege it was on occasion when Dad would go get us McDonald’s hamburgers. And only when we were taking long road trips did we sometimes go to Denny’s (but mostly we ate sandwiches my mom made ahead of time).

  • Terry

    Such a thought provoking episode! As I listened I found myself commenting out loud as if I was part of the roundtable. That is one of the things I love about PRT is that feeling that you are part of a discussion taking place with friends with the advantage of input from knowledgeable well spoken people in the industry.
    My opinion on the value of scrapbooking is exactly what some think doesn’t matter BUT it does… Anyone can quote facts: dates, names, places but we are giving a more in depth look at the times we live in and how it affects our day to day lives. That is what future generations will find interesting in our albums. Try describing a wringer washer/clothesline to someone in their teens and I think you’ll know what I mean.
    Great episode as always – still listening to the archives while awaiting new ones and loving it.
    P.S. Shimelle might be one of my favourite guests, always has great input.

  • Jana NJ

    I agree very good episode, in my case my son who is Autistic helped me to tell real and truthful stories in my scrapbooks. I’m so glad that Stampington took my idea to do a article telling mothers like me that our children deserve their stories told, even though sometimes they are silent story makers and also specially to spread acceptance. Awareness alone is not enough we need acceptance and also accept that not always life is perfect and our scrapbook should reflect that. Our stories matter and Autism in my particular case helped me to see my scrapbooks in a whole new way, so much so I changed completely the way I scrapbook even becoming a digital scrapper.
    I agree with Noell Autism is just a example how time evolve and things change and what was not common before is now and the only way we are going to pay attention to that is documenting it.

    But I agree with the ephemera that’s why I love Project life . I’m linking here a page I did called : Labeled : no thank you which illustrate my point

    Excellent one guys.
    Jana Oliveira

  • Marieitis

    As always a very thought provoking show. I found the discussion of authenticity interesting. I think with something as subjective as life itself, every perspective has authenticity. What I mean is that, unless a story is completely made up, it can always only from one persons point of view. There is that famous saying about history always being written from the victors perspective…because they are the only ones left after any conflict with the ability to record and keep what happened…the losers aren’t around or are not in a position to put their resources into recording it. (A slightly morbid example to explain what I mean) So when lots of people are keeping memories, everyone’s story adds to the collective memory and in some ways might make a more valid and authentic overall picture of life than just a single historian, who is usually from a specific socio-economic and ethnic background, writing about it. Not sure if I am explaining what I mean very well…but how amazing would it be to have scrapbooks from all different periods of history showing what everyday life was really like not just great world events, as we usually know those anyway. My kids are always asking what it was like when I was young. All my grandparents were dead before I was born or soon after so I have little personal connection to my family’s history and it would be great to have some scrapbooks or journals about any of them. Very envious of people like Katie Scott that has detailed stuff for generations :)

  • So interesting – love this episode and love how you mentioned that as a collection, all our scrapbooking says something about our generation’s perspective on life… and that it is of value and contribution in reflecting our culture at this time.

  • Great point about how family life has very much changed… just from one generation, I always note the difference the roles of Mom and Dad have changed. My mother-in-law always notes how in her days – Dad was more of a figure that didn’t do a whole lot with the kids… whereas today, my husband definitely helps out and plays a huge role with our kids… not just as a figurehead – if that makes sense! It’s interesting to see these changes in family life and it reflects in what we document inside our scrapbooks today.

  • April Lilli

    I haven’t finished the episode yet, but listening reminds me of a story I came across last year. It’s about a gentleman that rescues over 600 children during the holocaust in 1938-1939. Then 50 years later his wife uses the scrapbook be made in 1939 with all the children’s names and photos to locate them and get them all together to celebrate him. He has no idea who all the people in the audience with him are and his reaction is so touching when he finds out. Here’s a link to that story if you’d like to see it:
    I feel like this totally relates to why old scrapbooks can be important. I’m sure this scrapbook will be kept forever.
    Loving this episode guys. Thanks for always giving me something interesting to listen to on my long commute to work!

  • So glad to hear from you, Jana. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Jana, and your insights on scrapbooking with autism. It’s a beautiful layout and take on how to keep it real but still positive.

  • I understand what you’re saying 100%. For my daughter’s US History class last year we focused a lot of the history of what insights we have from Native Americans, the slaves, and women and children. It definitely added to the picture that we’ve traditionally only received from he victors, as you put it, and we found that is so much more to story…of course…when you look at it from more than one point of view. So all these scrapbooks we’ve been making? Yes…

  • So try. As a family yesterday at dinner, Izzy and I were talking about those differences with our kids — the way parents saw their roles and played them out. We tend to just take for granted that our ways of life now will remain. But in reality, things drastically change over just a single generation.

  • Wow, that is beautiful. Thank you for sharing, April!

  • Kelly Jean

    Thank you so much for this interesting episode! This subject is a little tough for me because I get easily overwhelmed by it. I love hearing about scrapbooks from the past and the stories they tell. It is so cool and interesting to hear. But I also feel pressure to put “important things” in my scrapbooks for future generations. This is a big debate for me and may be more related to the topic of “scrapbooking for me versus scrapbooking for the future.” Regardless, I love that you covered this topic and love to hear what people have to say about it.

    On Shimelle’s sharing of the scrapbook she found, that is so freaking cool! It reminds me of when I went to an estate sale where “everything was for aale,” yet when I tried to purchase some very old stamps and stamp books, I was told they weren’t for sale. I ended up (very accidentally) taking a few home with me that were in a box I purchased. I returned them, but stI’ll found a few more a few weeks later. Relating to Shimelle’s story. I remember the family asking me in a very accusatory tone “What are going to do with them? Resell them? ” and I think they didn’t let me buy them because they thought I was going to try and make money on them. But really I just thought they were cool.

    Anyways, sorry to ramble on. I think I may go back and listen to this episode a few times more as it is “very deep” for me and I want to fully comprehend all of the information in it. Thanks again for the awesome episode and for getting us scrapbookers really thinking!

  • Kelly, I truly believe that we are at our best when we work from the heart and do what we feel inspired to do and what we’re passionate about. Scrapbooking for you, in my opinion, is the BEST thing you can do. We cannot predict what the world will find valuable in the future, so I don’t think we should try to scrapbook in a way that we think OTHERS will appreciate if it’s not what WE, ourselves appreciate.

  • Janet

    This episode was exceptional, even more thought-provoking than most. I think people are driven to scrapbook, journal, keep commonplace books. My first scrapbook was to record my 1958 -8th grade graduation trip and didn’t make another one until 2008 . I’ve been journaling since the mid-1980’s and keeping a Commonplace Book since then too. Although today’s products and classes have an audience of people who can afford it (or as I tell my kids, spend their inheritance) on this passion, I think the need to record lives isn’t unique to a culture or class. Like the Gee Bend quilts or Anne Franke hidden away, the need gives birth to creativity. I think we do it for ourselves, an audience of one. If our craft or our voice goes out into the world, it is serendipity. Like with genealogy research, it is impossible to know how long any of it will be valued enough to survive; I have a legacy to leave–that is the most I can do–and it makes me happy.

  • Julie F (@jfount)

    I haven’t made the time to listen to your podcast before but my ears perked up at the word “dissertation” :) I wish someone would pick up my dissertation on a podcast! Or maybe not…

    I had a look, and I don’t see the other (more negative) scholar you mentioned listed in the bibliography. I wonder if she was approaching things from a design/art history perspective? I can imagine someone poo-poo’ing the modern world of pre-packaged pre-designed materials vis a vis an older, more eclectic approach (although I feel like that would be a simplification of the actual facts; the 19th century produced a lot of ephemera that was really intended and designed to be kept and collected, and Victorian ladies spent a lot of time thinking and learning about design if we keep that term open to a wide range of arts and crafts).

    I’m sort of tickled to see that Dr Hunt’s dissertation more or less matches the reasons why I scrapbook: as a form of visual storytelling and self-reflective writing. I think the modern “story-centered album” has a clearer historical value than just a box of bits of paper, although as ever it’s a matter of having the right kind of research questions to make things valuable. I’m an historian rather than a literature or rhetoric person, and while I don’t see scrapbooks as being necessarily, inherently super-super valuable, I think they do give a particular kind of evidence that is unlikely to be replicated in other sources from an individual life. I mean, the contents are deliberately selected, but then that’s what you’re looking at. A professional historian doesn’t just assume that the scrapbook represents the absolute accurate truth; you’d say, well, who knows if this woman went on carefree roadtrips every weekend, but clearly those were important to her and what she thought her image should be. And again, if you set out to use scrapbooks to learn about some topic in women’s history you would probably be getting voices from some segments of society out of proportion to others, but that’s kind of the way of most evidence.

    The key is to deposit your stories in archives where they can be found. And then, as Dr Hunt points out, the other key is to educate archivists so they don’t throw them out. That always helps. (Shimeeeeelle, I bet someone’s working on youth culture in the 1960s who would love that scrapbook, it sounds wonderful! I would die for something like that documenting the women’s organizations I’ve written about in the 1940s. It looks like Smith College might have a YWCA collection.)

    Digitizing is never as simple as you would think. That’s my last comment ;)

  • Oh my goodness, yes to #2. People looking at this generations scrapbooks will think (quite correctly) that family life revolves completely around children! I imagine they might think that as strange as we think the Victorians were for practically ignoring their children.
    And yes, also travel and leisure, the nuclear family and individualism, living far from family members (in many cases), car transportation and suburban sprawl… and probably a lot of trends we don’t necessarily recognize yet (because it will depend on where the world ends up next – if climate change becomes a major force we might notice energy wastage or different type of weather patterns… it’s hard to predict.) Project Life pages might seem boring to many people now, but those little details might be quite fascinating in the long run, building into a bigger picture of everyday life.

  • Cara

    I have been asking for a long time, what is the truth about a particular photo/event, and Debbie just dipped her toe into the waters of this question. I would love the PRT to go deeper into this topic and talk about ‘truth’, how our perspective changes over time, what to do if we scrap book something and when we return to the page later we realise that what was really going on was something entirely different to what we thought at the time, and what we should do about that – Rescrap? Add a note? Leave it?
    As an example I recently scrapbooked a photo of my daughter at a school swimming
    carnival 10 years ago. She was surrounded by others in her House and
    looked like she was having fun with new friends at a new school. However
    those girls turned out to be nasty bullies who made my daughter’s life
    hell. What was the correct ‘memory’ to record? If I had scrapbooked it
    immediately after the event I would have written lots of affirming happy
    observations, but I actually wrote both in the end, the feelings of the
    time plus what reality turned out to be later. I could only do this because I was doing the page today, not straight after the event. I asked my daughter
    which was the right journaling and she was definite that she wouldn’t
    want the event recorded in “2004 rose coloured glasses”, she wanted
    ‘the truth’. I have heard episodes of the Roundtable where guests (and
    Noell) such as Ana Moses say they usually scrapbook older pictures, and
    others such as Tracy Banks saying that she always scrapbooks
    immediately after taking pictures. I would like to explore the
    advantages and disadvantages of both approaches.

  • HelenH

    Ooh, love seeing so many comments, will read later.

    I listened to this after dismantling (curating) several scrapbooks my mother made of my school years. After a year of researching previously-unknown (uninterested in) family history, I saw many items that I feel would be of interest to many other people. What wonderful finds they would be from a Google search!

    I find incredibly detailed European family trees. For example, “here are 20,000 descendants of Olaf Johnson. Of course, many have emigrated to America, which are lost to us.” But we are not lost! We didn’t know anything about you! Now we have an opportunity to share with each other.

    For my US family tree, I have so many photos that might be interesting to others. And back to my scrapbooks, I have a grade school yearbook which could be amusing to many people, their spouses, children, grandchildren…

    So, while I am curating my own family story, I think I have material of interest to many people now – and in the near future – regardless of larger historical context. But how?!

  • Cara, did you hear the episode where we talked about this? If I remember right you left shared this story in the forum and we actually read it out loud and discussed it. If that wasn’t your comment, then it was someone else’s comment who had the same experience. I think it was one of the Q&A episodes. I actually think we’ve talked about this subject many times over different episodes, but maybe have not devoted a whole episode directly.
    If I had scrapbooked the page right away as I originally perceived the story, I would then come back and make a companion page that tells the rest of the story. I actually think that’s quite enlightening to see the original perception alongside the later one.

  • Cara

    Oh, I’ll have to go back and check that out Noell, thanks for the info. I think you all covered the ‘reliable witness’ aspect extremely well in this week’s episode without it dominating the conversation.

  • Oh, good to know! I was wondering if we addressed it adequately since I wasn’t expecting to discuss it, so I didn’t process my thoughts thoroughly before the recording. Glad to hear that it was just fine.

  • ldmccarty

    When I was about 12, an elderly friend of my mom’s died and we were asked if we wanted anything (not of large value) from her items. I chose two autograph books. One was from when she left her job at the telephone company to marry (in about 1920) and the other was a random autographs book. I have treasured them for decades and I barely knew her. There is something valuable to me in those hand written notes, little doodles and pictures and that snippet of 1920 American life. I can totally see someone getting something similar out of my scrapbook(s) if/when they ever end up in an antique store in 100 years. But whether they do or not, I loved this topic and thinking about this perspective and vowed I will add more cultural pages to my “me” book that I’ve just started this year. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time and this has helped me get some momentum behind that desire.

    On another topic, Debbie, very intrigued to hear about your new format and looking forward to checking that out. I think the idea of “tracks” through your existing material is a great one.

  • I am so sorry that I am commenting on this episode so late. I’ve listened to it 2 times and both times have been talking back to the podcast. LOL.

    I liked that Debbie Hodge disagreed with some points about the individual value of scrapbooks. I do agree with her that scrapbooks in composite definitely add to a body of cultural artifacts. However, in some ways I disagree with her. I think that scrapbooks haven’t been taken seriously because they have traditionally been made and continue to be made mostly by women. Perhaps our cultural biases cause us to diminish the personal and cultural value of the work we do in telling our stories and the stories of our families. I think that the first response by most of us would be no–we aren’t dismissing it because of gender. Because much of history has been written by men, about men, and for men, it can be challenging to understand what women have contributed over the ages culturally and socially.

    Whether or not my scrapbooks make a contribution historically to the larger body of cultural artifacts does interest me. Even more importantly, I think my scrapbooks contribute to a body of work that has importance for my descendants, whether they appreciate my work or not. (sorry this is taking me forever to make my point). No one else is going to tell my story–not even my husband. I have generations of ancestors lost to me because they didn’t write their stories down. The men often got more notice because of military service or because they were part of big national events. The women just fade into the background. I refuse to let my story just fade. I think my life has meaning and value; my choices and experiences impact my children and ripple down the generations.

    The more families and women who tell their stories, the better understanding future generations will have of our society and culture. They’ll be understand how their society works because of what happened in ours.

    Which reminds me, I better start scrapbooking the aspects of my life that I keep neglecting–like my volunteer work with my church, my education interests, and stories about my life.

  • YES!

    Things have already changed so fast in our society. I came across a photo that was taken while I was still in college. I had a portable typewriter/word processor that was huge and awkward. Now, I don’t even think you can buy an electric typewriter. I used that to type my papers. I made a layout about how I wrote papers in college. We had computers, but most people couldn’t afford their own computer. Having a portable word processor was great. Now I would die with such a bulky thing!

  • Melissa LaFavers

    Janet, what a great comment! I love that idea of “audience of one.”

  • Melissa LaFavers

    Thank you all for another riveting episode. I have often argued with myself about whether or not to keep scrapbooking. Often, that happens in a highly stressful time of my life when I don’t have as much time to do what I love to do, and I think of giving it up out of frustration with that reality. Other times, I’ve wondered, what’s the point? My husband and I have chosen not to have children, so there is nobody to inherit my scrapbooks and the stories within them.

    I remember a long-ago episode of the PRT in which Nancy Nally mentioned a woman who was caregiving for her mother and mother-in-law, who were both suffering from memory issues, and wanted her to scrapbook their stories so they would be preserved. I realized then, having dealt with my own mother’s memory loss, which deteriorated into full-blown dementia, how valuable it was for me to preserve my memories for myself.

    Memory fades, whether or not dementia is present, and I continue to scrapbook because I want a beautifully illustrated, written record of my life from my perspective to help me remember when I’m old. This episode made me realize that there can be a greater purpose to preserving the details of my life, and made me think more deeply about more details to include.

    Also, a shout-out to Izzy for the recommendation of Affinity Designer. I told my husband about it, and he bought it and loves it. So, thanks! He was using Inkscape, and this is much better.

  • TracieClaiborne

    This was definitely one of my top five PRT episodes! Kudos to you for this discussion! I think I could have listened to several more hours on this topic. :)

  • Jill Cropp

    Shimelle, I loved hearing about the scrapbook you bought in Portland. I assume you’re talking about Portland, OR where I live and am from and would have love, love, loved to have seen that scrapbook about the YMCA. I am so fascinated to hear what regular people used to do in my home town before I was born and how the city and the people living there have evolved. I’m sure there are other people who feel the same way. I even feel like a document like that belongs at our historical society. So send it back!!! Just kidding…. just knowing someone has it who appreciates that kind of thing is good enough. Thanks for such a great show with 3 of my very favorite regular contributers. :)

  • Izzy and I are talking about possibly getting rid of our cars and moving to downtown Portland as our kids graduate and move out of our house. We love the idea of living in a walkable city.

  • Nice! Thank you!

  • Jennifer G.

    I cannot believe I got so behind, that pretty much never happens. I spent the last couple of days of commute catching up on the last three episodes. Just wanted to say that my family loves Mitch Hedberg. We were listening to some of his stuff on YouTube a few years ago after hearing him on satellite radio and didn’t find out he had passed until we had listed to almost everything he had done. We were super sad. He had a great talent.

  • Awesome — it’s great to find more Helberg fans. We got to see him live and we were so sad when he died — way too, too young and too soon!! We still pull out his jokes, all these years later.

  • Jennifer G.

    My brother-in-law and sister-in-law live there with their children. They moved about three years ago from Florida to there. Although my sister-in-law does have family and grew up there, they absolutely love it.

  • Tina Campbell

    Wonderful show and topic :)