Scrapbooks Lie

This entry is part 3 of 86 in the series Scrapworthy Lives Results

Each Wednesday, I write a post from my dissertation.

Scrapbooks contain narratives about the past. These narratives to some extent “must be fictionalized in order for us to make sense of our lives … in order to survive” (Mavor 1997:115). Scholars note how people omit negative memories from their photograph albums (Holland 1991), so it would be easy to assume that scrapbookers do the same. Industry workers emphasize that every scrapbooker should be truthful in their scrapbooks—that honesty matters. Being truthful includes scrapbooking the good and the bad and being careful with editing the story. Cropping a photograph might change the story the photograph tells, for instance. Scrapbookers often cut out objects that were not the focus of the photograph, but those objects may provide context, telling a more complete story. The point is that scrapbookers do strive to tell a truthful story. The story may not be “the truth” but it is “their truth;” outright dishonesty is rare. Lies of omission are quite common and scrapbookers have various reasons why some things are not scrapworthy, but truthfulness is held out as a norm among scrapbookers.
Scrapbookers are to varying degrees truthful in their scrapbooks. One respondent censors the copies of the heritage album she is creating for her brothers because she does not think they would understand the whole truth. She says she does not lie but “tells the most positive truth” she can. No other scrapbookers talk about censorship in this way, even when they did censor their books. For example, one respondent is careful about scrapbooking nudity so as not to raise the suspicion of child protective services.
Lies of omission can be as minor as only taking pictures of buildings and statues when on vacation. One respondent says, “I can’t stand people who travel and don’t ever take any people pictures; it’s like, wasn’t there any people on your trip?”
Non-scrapbookers overestimate the amount of lying and editing that takes place in scrapbooks. One respondent recounts how her son was crying in his picture with the Easter Bunny and her dad was like, “oh, I guess you can’t scrapbook it.” She did scrapbook it and thought “why wouldn’t I?” Though critics of scrapbooking and of snapshot family photography, are right to criticize the ability of the scrapbooker or family archivist to edit the story, they overemphasize this point.
Holland, Patricia. 1991. “Introduction: History, Memory and the Family Album.” Pp.1-14 in Family Snaps: The Meanings of Domestic Photography, edited by J. Spence and P. Holland. London, Great Britain: Virago Press.
Mavor, Carol. 1997. “Collecting Loss.” Cultural Studies 11(1):111-37.
Related posts:

Don’t forget, you can always email me your questions and suggestions. Email me at stephaniemedleyrath at gmail dot com or contact me here ( and let me know what you’re thinking, what you’d like to see, and any questions you might have. I will personally respond to your emails and may use your questions in future articles.


Series NavigationA Sense of CommunityIs Editing Photographs being Dishonest?
This entry was posted in Dissertation, Findings, Scrapbooking Norms, Scrapworthy, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.
  • Hi, Stephanie, thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving me a message, I appreciate it! Love your blog and the text on this post! Georgia

  • Thank you for your feedback. Enjoy!