(In)Complete Stories

This entry is part 84 of 86 in the series Scrapworthy Lives Results

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

Whether a scrapbook has a clear beginning or ending is only one consideration for how complete a scrapbook is. Another aspect to consider regarding how complete a scrapbook is has to do with whether or not the whole story is included on the scrapbook page. Journaling may be missing, for instance.

From my photo-elicitation interviews, I find that very rarely is the whole story included. The oral narrative almost always provides more details than the scrapbook page. Moreover, the photo-elicitation interviews with a family member or a friend of the scrapbooker really drives this point home when they either give me additional details or are unable to communicate anything beyond what is physically in front of them on the scrapbook page. For example, one scrapbook page contains one photograph of the respondent, her son, and her husband and the journaling says “lunch with mom and dad ’04.” That is it. When I looked at the page with my respondent and then looked at it separately with her son, both respondents told me about how this was a real special day because all three family members were able to make it to the lunch at school. Normally, only the respondent (mom) is able to make it to the lunch with her son. This part of the story is not mentioned on the scrapbook page and a person would have no way of knowing this story except through viewing the scrapbook page with the scrapbooker or with her son who was in the photograph.

Scrapbooks are like autobiographies in that they can only be understood in their entirety if one understands who is included in the intended audience (Bjorklund 1998). Scrapbookers only need to provide as much information as they believe their intended audience needs in order to interpret the story. In the above example, if the primary audience is the nuclear family, then the scrapbooker successfully told the whole store on her scrapbook page. If the audience is supposed to extend beyond her nuclear family, then she did not tell the whole story because an oral narrative was prompted to fill me in on what was not recorded on the layout.

Do you think your scrapbooks tell complete stories? Why or why not? What role does audience play in how complete your stories are?

Series NavigationHow Does a Scrapbook Begin?Scrapbooks are Rarely Complete Narratives
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  • Mary

    This was a really interesting excerpt today! I hadn’t really thought about the similarity to autobiographies before, or about the importance of an audience. I do think that my scrapbooks tell complete stories, but not always perfectly.

    I like to show my pages to extended family and friends, but for the most part, I’m making them because I enjoy it NOW, and I am the one who will keep them for years to come. So if I think about audience, I guess think about myself and what details I might forget years from now or what I think will be interesting to reflect back on.

  • Since my pages are told only from my point of view, I do not think that my scrapbooks tell the entire story. Unless it is a mini book, my albums are usually a mix of pages without being a cohesive album.

    I have thought about this more recently as I try to tell the story of our move to a new state. I want to take some classes on story telling and try to make a scrapbook or photo book that tells a more complete story.

  • Thanks for commenting. I try to think about the things I am likely to forget (or want to remember), but then go a bit futher. I think that we tend to believe we will remember more than we actually do, so thinking about other people (even if they never look at it), may help me get everything I really need down.

  • Mary

    Yeah, I totally agree that we always think we’ll remember more than we do.