By Victoria Velasco, Pratt Institute School of Information
For the next few months, I will be working on scrapbooks from the YWCA Collection at Brooklyn College Library, which documents the daily activities of the YWCA of Brooklyn. The scrapbooks mostly contain newspaper clippings and invitations related to YWCA events.
I began with the earliest scrapbook in the collection, which spans the YWCA’s activities from 1888 to 1900. From a research perspective, these books are invaluable because they offer insight into what was important to the women running the organization. These days, it is easy to forget that there was a time in which women weren’t allowed to vote. Single, working women faced stigmatization, and the YWCA played a crucial role in offering women independence in a time in which more oppressive standards were the norm.
My first step was documentation. I photographed all the pages in the book, and removed any loose items that had been tucked inside over the years. Newspaper clippings and event invitations were the main items in the book. While this may seem labor intensive, it is important for preservation to have digital images of each page in the book until they can be digitized more systematically.
Aside from the brittle paper, which is to be expected in a scrapbook from that time, the primary damage to the book was that one of the covers had become detached from the rest of the spine and book block.
There are several ways to fix this; my goal was to reinforce the spine without compromising the original aesthetic of the cover too much. To do this, I placed new archival cloth underneath the old cloth to essentially build a new spine. The first step was to remove the cover and spine from the block of pages. After scraping away the century old adhesive, I ran the new cloth from one cover, under the spine, and attached it to the other cover. With the reinforced spine ready, I reattached the book block and added a small piece of archival paper to cover the seam between the book block and the cover, and maintain the original end paper.
The last step in the project was to create a custom box for the book and the loose materials. This is a time consuming process, and precision is extremely important. It is important to get the perfect fit; too small will put pressure on the book, but too large and the contents can move around and easily get damaged. This folding box is made of a base piece, two sides, and two top wings.
All in all this first scrapbook was a great first glimpse of what the coming months of my internship have in store. Minor hiccups and errors ultimately served as valuable learning experiences, and I’m confident that the coming projects, each with their own set of unique requirements will be just as fulfilling!