Welcome to the Scrapbook History website and blog. Here you’ll find materials on how ordinary (and extraordinary) people took media into their lives over a hundred years ago, through their scrapbooks. The site supplements my book, Writing with Scissors: American Scrapbooks from the Civil War to the Harlem Renaissance. I hope you’ll comment and contribute.
As I was putting together my talk for the Northwestern University exhibit on scrapbooks coming up Wednesday, November 13, 4 pm, I realized that two of the women whose scrapbooks I’d written about had lived in Evanston. Women’s rights activist, writer, and speaker Elizabeth Boynton Harbert,and Women’s Christian Temperance Union leader Frances Willard were both great makers and users of strategic scrapbooks, so of course I’ll talk about them. I’m hoping to get in to see the Frances Willard House, but so far haven’t heard back from the volunteers there. I’ll be speaking as well on Nov 14, at 12:30 — a somewhat different talk.
Special Collections at Northwestern University has put up what looks like a terrific exhibit of scrapbooks from their collection, including of course college students’ scrapbooks. I’m looking forward to seeing it in the flesh, though they have generously scanned and posted many online.
I’ll be speaking at the exhibit on Nov. 13 at 4pm at University Library’s Forum Room (“Reading the Remnants: American Scrapbook History”) and then Nov 14 at a lunchtime seminar for Rhetoric and Public Culture, at 12:30 in Kresge (“Strategic Scrapbooks: Nineteenth Century Activists Remake the Newspaper for African American History and Women’s Rights”). Both talks are free and open to the public. Let Chicago friends know!
I’ve made it to the west coast, virtually. Such a pleasure to talk with Kate Raphael of KPFA’s Women’s Magazine, broadcast on Oct. 21. A real conversation, in a tiny hotel room, when she was in NYC for a wedding. And it’s now on their blog. Lots on African American scrapbook makers, women’s rights scrapbooks, and of course Mark Twain.
Thrilled to be giving a keynote at the fabulous Gender, Race and Representation in Magazines and New Media conference, at Cornell next week! Noliwe Rooks has done great work organizing it. It’s bringing together scholars and magazine and blog practitioners. Alexis De Veaux speaking on Essence! Kimberly N. Foster’s keynote, “Black Women Blogging Ourselves into Being”! And on a scrapbook note, Caroline Keyser is speaking on “Pure food prodigy: Philippa Schuyler, Celebrity Embodiment, and the Politics of Race.” I had a chance to look at the scrapbooks Schuyler’s mother compiled, now at Syracuse, and am very curious about what Keyser makes of this deeply strange story. My talk is “Hidden Histories: African American Community Resistance to the 19th Century Press” — discussing how black readers undermined and resisted the white newspapers’ and magazines’ attempts to segregate the imagined community of magazine and newspaper readership.
Talking about Repurposed Books on a panel with Karen Sanchez-Eppler and Rachel Feder this Thursday at 6 pm will be such a treat! Karen has done such remarkable readings of all kinds of reworked printed matter that I can’t wait to hear what she’s found
in a mourning journal. Rachel Feder will take us transatlantic with her work on women’s daily writing and the origins of experimental poetry. I’ll focus on the ways scrapbook makers and others have repurposed books –and the story of a recent book repurposing scandal.
The talk will take place in 523 Butler Library on the Columbia University Morningside campus (535 West 114th Street, NYC) Take the 1/9 train to 116th street. (Bonus: you can get into Butler Library this way.)
I spoke yesterday at the engaging Unmediated History conference at the Library Company of Philadelphia, mainly attended by members of the Ephemera society of America organized by the hardworking Erika Piola. One heated conversation was with a collector who removes advertising trade cards he wants from scrapbooks he buys. From his point of view, the scrapbook doesn’t have much to say unless an attractive arrangement jumps out at him. And when he found a Gold Rush ship’s log covered over with clippings, his impulse was to remove them.
Of course there are no scrapbook police to stop him. But I hope he will photograph the pages before he removes items.
Meanwhile, hobbyists on eBay offer advice on how to soak the cards off scrapbook pages, complete with pathetic photos of dismembered sheets.
I never did learn where the idea that history using ephemera is unmediated — seems entirely told through media.
Looking forward to speaking Friday at Unmediated History — a conference jointly sponsored by the Ephemera Society of America and the Library Company of Philadelphia — Ben Franklin’s old stomping grounds. It will be great to be back there, and to meet some of the ephemera enthusiasts I talked to when I was working on The Adman in the Parlor: Magazines and the Gendering of Consumer Culture.