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.
I started to read Jada F. Smith’s terrific op ed in the New York Times, “Don’t Mess With
Auntie Jean,” about her aunt standing up to oppressive segregationists in Georgia in the 1960s, and her examination of family history. What a surprise to find Jada Smith discovering her mother’s scrapbook, and in it her mother speaking back to the white press — in pink ink, no less. It’s a striking continuation of the tradition of African American scrapbook makers in the nineteenth century, handwriting their corrections on the articles clipped from the white press that they saved in their scrapbooks. John Wesley Cromwell’s scrapbook from the 1890s is a great example of this. And even in the 1960s, an annotated scrapbook corrects what Smith calls the “bland newspaperese” that was content with the white point of view. Her mother’s scrapbook spoke back to the white press within her family, keeping alive a family tradition of standing up and speaking back, in the face of gunfire. Read it!
Looking forward to joining Laura Wexler and the members of the Yale Photographic Memory Workshop and History of Science people at the Gilder Lehrman Centre’s Seminar room from 4:30-6:30. Open to the public — do come. I leave or Paris the next day, so this is your last chance for 5 months. (I don’t think the Photographic Memory Workshop means they study people with photographic memory, but rather the kind of work Laura has done on photography and memory, and most recently the extraordinary Photogrammar project, for searching and doing much more with FSA photos from the Depression.
Two British hospitals had very different ideas about the prospects for disabled WWI soldiers, a study of their newspaper clipping scrapbooks shows. Emmeline Burdett compared scrapbooks in the London Metropolitan Archives for Queen Mary Hospital Roehampton and Queen Mary Hospital Sidcup.showing the men’s activities and job training, and found one focusing on their capacities and engagement with the social world, and the other on placing them out of sight. I wonder how much this has to do with the actual newspaper coverage, and how much it reflects the choices of the scrapbook makers. Institutional scrapbooks like these are their own fascinating resource, and this investigation reminds us that they have their own angles of vision.
I’ll be speaking on repurposed books at the Local Americanists series at UMD College Park on Friday. I have to find out where the picture on this gorgeous poster came from! Come if you’re in the area. Thanks to Ingrid Satelmajer and Bob Levine for the invitation. This will also give me a chance to revisit the amazing Joseph W. H. Cathcart scrapbooks at Howard University. These are the over 100 scrapbooks made by a 19th century African American janitor who stamped some of his books “GSBM” for the Great Scrapbook Maker.
Heading out Texas A&M for the symposium Making Sense: Handwriting and Print. It looks like a great program — we’ll start with some hands-on work with a hand press, and then
jump from Renaissance to 21st century, graphic novels to British detective novels, film to Japanese best sellers, and OCRing black letter. So cool! My talk, “Cut-and-Paste Pedagogy: Hand, Scissor, Pen, Scrapbook” is an offshoot from my book, and I get to be on a panel with Vera Camden talking about Alison Bechdel’s “autographics” — hmm. I wonder if she means all those meticulously rendered handwritten and printed passages in Bechdel’s memoirs? Will find out.
I’m thrilled to be receiving the book prize of the Institute for Humanities Research for transdisciplinary “socially engaged humanities scholarship.” That my work crosses disciplines is not a surprise — the Library of Congress gave my first book 11 subject headings, I think. But it’s humbling to have Writing with Scissors placed with the work of environmental activists like Rob Nixon, innovative scholars of colonialism and empire, like Claudia Sadowski-Smith and Silvia Spitta, and people who dig into the culture of objects and design things, like Prasad Boradkar, and innovative thinkers about art like Ron Broglio. If you’re in the Phoenix area, do come. I’ll be speaking Oct. 9, 4 pm.