Vintage scrapbooks in your family papers can be one of the most charming and evocative kinds of records passed down from one generation to the next. But archivists tread carefully around scrapbooks because they present a number of preservation challenges.

Scrapbooks sold commercially usually used very cheap and highly acidic paper for a foundation. And scrapbooks by nature have a lot of glue – also very acidic – used to add items to pages. The bindings of scrapbooks tend to fail and that makes the book unstable. And some of those mementos, especially organic items like flowers, can present additional preservation challenges.

The New York Times recently had an excellent article about preserving scrapbooks in the papers of famous people.

So what can you do with your family scrapbooks when you don’t have thousands of grant dollars or a professional conservation lab available?

The three most important things are: 1. scan or photograph the pages to create a digital surrogate, 2. store the originals flat in an acid-free container in a stable environment away from light, and 3. use acid-free tissue paper to interleave between the pages to prevent further migration of acid.