Do You Look at Your Scrapbooks?

This entry is part 1 of 86 in the series Scrapworthy Lives Results

Each Wednesday, I write a post from my dissertation.

According to Katherine Ott (2006) in The Scrapbook in American Life, “no scrapbook can present meaning without the collaboration of a reader, yet no reader (aside from the scrapbook maker) knows enough to interpret any scrapbook authentically and definitively” (p. 25).
Though many industry workers may intend for scrapbookers to create scrapbooks that can stand on their own, most scrapbooks do not. In other words, in order to understand the story being told in a scrapbook, its maker usually needs to be with the viewer to orally tell the story.
Scrapbooks are shared with others and this is most often the only time the scrapbooker looks at her or his completed work. Scrapbookers share their scrapbooks (and their stories) with nearly anyone who is interested: friends, family, co-workers, therapists, and other scrapbookers. [Currently, I am enrolled in a Blogging for Scrapbookers course and the majority of bloggers in this course are blogging about their scrapbook pages. Here the audience could include known and unknown people.]
A few weeks ago, I wrote about how scrapbookers should not really expect much praise or appreciation for their work. I realize this is really cynical or even narcissistic, but, it will make your life much easier as a scrapbooker if you focus on scrapbooking for yourself rather than for others.
So who looks at a person’s scrapbooks?
Anyway, among my respondents, one respondent notes that the only family member who seems to really enjoy looking at her scrapbooks is her mother and she thinks that is because she is also a scrapbooker. Scrapbookers anticipate that people whose memories are also preserved in their scrapbooks would take an interest in the books, but find that this is no guarantee. One respondent made an album about a trip she had taken with a friend and notes how “she’s never even asked me to see the vacation scrapbook and she was on the trip!”
Partners can also be a source of appreciation. Other’s lack of appreciation is explained by their upbringing. One respondent said her husband’s lack of appreciation was due to his family growing up with little money and the fact they did not take photos very often while he was a child. This respondent goes on to discuss the difference in appreciation based on gender: “the women in the family (who are all scrapbookers) are all involved and excited and we look at each other’s scrapbooks, we talk about it, we go scrapbook shopping.”
Another participant points out two groups that she expects to be uninterested in her scrapbooks: people outside the immediate family and non-scrapbookers; however, another respondent sees his friends as being more appreciative of the scrapbooks than his family because his friends are in his books more than his family (his family lives several states away).
Unlike adults, children look at scrapbooks repeatedly. Respondents with young children (pre-junior high age) talk about how their children look at the scrapbooks over and over again. Some scrapbookers also share their layouts online, posting them to their personal blog, sharing them with an online community of scrapbookers, or submitting them to more public scrapbooking galleries for strangers to view, too. Overall, scrapbooks are not shared very often—not because they are too private, but because scrapbookers do not find many people are interested in looking at their books. Interestingly, scrapbookers rarely look at their own scrapbooks either.
For most scrapbookers, the only time they look at their scrapbooks is if they are sharing them with others. Some mention looking at their album to get ideas if they are currently working on their scrapbooks. Even when scrapbooks are looked at, every scrapbook is not viewed. It would be safe to say that at most, each scrapbook album the scrapbooker creates is looked at once or twice a year. Only a couple of respondents mention looking at their scrapbooks multiple times a week. Even when viewed, scrapbooks are rarely viewed in their entirety. For instance, the viewer may not read the journaling.
Through sharing their scrapbooks with others, scrapbookers shape how others interpret the narrative contained in the scrapbook. How the narrative is understood varies depending on if the scrapbooker is present during the viewing of the scrapbook. Moreover, the scrapbooker actively shapes other’s perception of the scrapbooker and her or his family through selectively choosing what to include and exclude in the scrapbook.
Now dear reader, it is your turn. Do you look at your scrapbooks? How often? Who do you share your scrapbooks with? Comment below.

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  • I found your blog through BFS. Your dissertation is fascinating! I’m a social psychologist and a scrapbooker, and I was just wondering if there was much research about scrapbooking before I came across your post. Glad to see you were able to devote your dissertation to it.

    I love to flip through my scrapbooks, usually while I am adding new pages. I also share layouts with my husband as I complete them, but we rarely sit down and flip through an entire album. Mainly I share my pages with other scrapbookers, either in person at a crop or online (on my blog or message boards).

    Looking forward to your next installment!

  • Thanks for the comment. When I started my dissertation, there were only two other sociology dissertations on the topic. I know there are at least two other working papers on the topic in sociology, but that’s about it. Psychology might have more research on the topic since it has been used quite a bit in some therapy practices.

  • Guest

    I rarely look at my scrapbooks.  As you said, I do when I share with friends or new boyfriends in my daughter’s life.
    I rarely look by myself.  I have one or two books, that I consider my self therapy related books that I look at from time to time.  Maybe, this lack of interest has contributed to my lack of interest in the hobby.  The person I worked with most is now now longer interested in compiling pages.  Maybe when there is a new stronger reason to pick it back up again, I will. 

  • Hmmm….definitely something to think about. What do you do when the person you scrap with isn’t interested in it anymore? That’s tough. I’m sorry. 🙁 Thanks for commenting.

  • Bummer. Well, if you were interested in the hobby before, you’ll probably find yourself interested again sometime.

  • HelenH

    I keep one album in the living room and turn a page every day. Usually it’s that last one I completed, but right now I have my son’s open from when he was 8. I just ordered photos from his senior prom…

  • What a great idea! My albums are in our living room, but they are on shelf. They only get looked at when my daughter wants to look at one. Thanks for commenting!

  • “To understand the story being told in a scrapbook, its maker usually needs to be with the viewer to orally tell the story.” – I totally agree with this! 

  • Do you think that the QR codes and other scannable stickers that allow you to easily record an oral story will become popular with scrapbookers because of this? I write a lot more journaling than I did in the past, but even then, I still usually have more to say when I am showing the scrapbook to someone.