Rule #1: Archival Quality of Materials

This entry is part 71 of 86 in the series Scrapworthy Lives Results

Each Wednesday, I usually write a post from my dissertation.

Scrapbookers should use “appropriate” materials in their scrapbooks, by which industry workers mean archival[1] though every respondent broke this rule at least some of the time. One industry worker states, “if you’re going to go through that time and effort that you want them to last so you should use materials that are going to help be durable and long lasting.” Industry workers find it frustrating if customers resist using non-archival materials in their scrapbooks because one of the goals for industry workers is that scrapbooks are meant to hold and preserve memories for future generations. Using non-archival materials defeats the purpose in their eyes. Most scrapbookers, too, emphasize using archival products in their scrapbooks. Scrapbookers talk of “resuscitating” the photographs and memories they find in older family albums by removing the photographs from non-archival albums (e.g., magnetic albums) and placing them in archival quality scrapbooks.

The use of non-archival materials also varies depending on where the person fits within the thought community of scrapbooking. For example, Inspired Stories emphasizes the superiority of their products over all others and extensively tests all of their products for durability. Inspired Stories scrapbookers are less likely to include non-archival materials and products not made by Inspired Stories even if labeled safe for scrapbooking because they support the view that all non-Inspired Stories products are inferior, potentially non-archival, and non-safe.

The emphasis on archival materials also depends on the purpose of one’s scrapbook. If the purpose is to preserve one’s memories for future generations, then archival materials are very important. If, however, one’s purposes are only that the person enjoys the process of scrapbooking, then using archival materials may not be as important. The use of archival materials also depends on what photographs are going into the album. Scrapbookers using older photographs (i.e., heritage albums) or photographs that belonged to a loved one (i.e., their mother) tend to be more concerned with using archival materials.

From my observations as an industry worker, one major shift has been the technology. With digital cameras it is so much easier to just print out another photo than with film cameras. Because of this, it seems more scrapbookers are less concerned with exclusively using archival materials compared to when they were using photos developed from film (whose negatives may be non-existent). One respondent mentions this difference and her apprehension with scrapbooking the older family photographs. Her mother-in-law, who was present during the interview, points out, however, that the photographs are no less safe outside of the scrapbook. In this case, if the photographs are not going to be safe, then they might as well not be safe in a scrapbook rather than a shoebox.


[1] Archival materials include using paper that is acid-free and lignin-free (e.g., not pages from magazines or newspapers), photo-safe adhesive (e.g., not rubber cement), and a waterproof pen (e.g., not a Sharpie®).

Do you choose archival materials over non-archival materials for your scrapbooks? Why or why not?

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  • mom2h

    I do mostly use items labeled acid-free, lignin-free, photo safe, archival, etc…although I sometimes wonder how safe some products are…especially cheaper brands. I wonder if the mfr can really jump through all those hoops to provide a safe product, and still keep their price down. My ideas on archival scrapbooking may also come from having a degree in Fine Art, and knowing the importance of using quality, long-lived materials. This may have been added to when I started formally scrapbooking using “Inspired Stories” (wink). Also, who keeps their product label(s) with their scrapbooks so that some day 50 years down the road their descendants can sue the company when products ruin their scrapbook? And most companies don’t stay in business that long anyway!

    I have also included memorabilia in my scrapbooks that are not intended to be scrapbook supplies. I will sometimes spray them with Archival Mist or Make It Acid-Free if they are important to a story, such as a program or newspaper article, or if they will be near or touching a photo. Acid migration is real. I have cleaned up old family scrapbooks where an “offending” (i.e., acidic) item has contaminated things around it. Often, especially in the case of newspaper, I will color copy the item onto safe paper for use in the scrapbook.

    Of course, whether one uses archival materials or not probably depends on several factors. Information, availability, budget and reason for scrapbooking are four factors. Some people scrapbook strictly for their own creative outlet, and aren’t concerned about how long a scrapbook will hold up. I saw this fact proven recently through a Q&A session during an online scrapbook class I am taking. The teacher asked the class to define why we scrapbook. Several respondents said scrapbooking was personal artistic expression for their own enjoyment, and not for descendants.

    Okay, I’ve rambled on, but I like this topic!

  • Thanks for sharing. When I first started scrapbooking, I had a lot of non-archival items I wanted to scrapbook (mostly newspaper clippings from childhood). I sprayed them all with archival mist. In hindsight, I wish I would have just photocopied them onto archival paper. I would have kept the clippings somewhere else. It never dawned on me to copy them (which would have been cheaper).

    I, too, wonder how “archival” some items really are. At the store I worked in, we had a policy that we did not take returns on stickers, paper, other other open stock items of this nature. One reason was because we had no idea how these items were cared for once they left the store. Were they stored in a wooden dresser? Well, now they’ve been contaminated. And there is only one company (to my knowledge) that tests products. Even then, if an item is of questionable archival quality, my desire to use it outweights whether it will last 50 or 100 years. That matters to me, but matters quite a bit less than the other reasons I scrapbook. I think the longevity matters mostly because of the financial investment I have in my supplies. If it is going to fall apart, then I might as well use the cheapest materials I can find.

  • JulieJ

    I love that shoebox comment! Ephemera generally isn’t archival quality so by limiting yourself to archival quality items means not including some of the keepsakes which I like to include where I can.

  • Thanks for commenting. I’d rather keep the things that are meaningful even if they aren’t archival than toss them out. I used to use archival mist on those items, but now I don’t usually bother. I’m not sure why. I also don’t use as many as those items as i used to. I think my scrapbooking has evolved a bit to leave those items out. Maybe I’m taking more photos and journaling more and that is replacing my “need” for some of that ephemera.