Archiving Scrapbooks

Dear Donia,

What is the best method for archiving scrapbooks? 

Old scrapbook

Q. Dear Donia,

I am working in a small public library that houses a collection of scrapbooks about the history of our town. We are not an archive but do have some local artifacts. These scrapbooks contain photos, letters, newsclippings and other ephemera. Some of the scrapbooks are in magnetic albums. I am trying to determine if it would make more sense to digitize them and then deconstruct them 1) for better preservation, 2) for accessibility, and 3) for better organization or because of historical integrity. Or should I just digitize and leave them alone? Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks, Alanna

A. Dear Alanna,

You ask some excellent questions regarding your scrapbooks. Scrapbooks are some of the most problematic collection items we have to deal with so you are not alone.
For many scrapbooks, it does make sense to deconstruct them for exactly what you have listed—preservation, access, and organization—as well as making digitization easier! It would be best to number the pages prior to disbinding so that you don't lose that order while digitizing and rehousing in folders and boxes.
I would hesitate to do this to any scrapbooks that may have value as an artifact as a whole. These would be ones from significant people or regarding significant events. This would be up to you to decide.
In the ideal world, you would digitize the magic album pages as they are (but without the plastic covering in place - it creates distortions) and then remove the items on the pages as the adhesive is unstable. To safely remove the items (except newsprint, that is really tricky) see this video from the Smithsonian Institution: How to get out of a sticky situation!.  
Good luck with your project!