Definition of Scrapbooking : a method for preserving personal and family history in the form of a scrapbook. Typical memorabilia include photographs, printed media, and artwork. Scrapbook albums are often decorated and frequently contain extensive journaling. Scrapbooking is a widely practiced pastime in the United States.

If you left the definition of Scrapbooking to just the first two lines I think photo preservation would still be thriving today. But the last two sentences that refer to “decorations” and “pastime” show how people think of Scrapbooking and Scrappers. It is just a hobby for women that want a craft project.

How Scrapbooking is Partly to Blame for Killing Photo Preservation

I began Scrapbooking in 1996.  At that time you you still printed photos and added them to the albums.  Scrapbooking supply stores were still a novelty and pages were pretty straight forward.

Today you can easily get overwhelmed on where to even to begin.

Should you scrapbook traditionally, digitally, or hybrid? Should you use a traditional, multimedia, or Project Life style? Should your look be be artsy or clean? Should you create a photo book using a printer’s software or buy your own? What kits should you use? What color palette?  Flowers or button?  And have you seen the Scrapbooking departments at most hobby stores?

It really is just too much – most people fold without even starting.

Then take the Capturing Magical Memories® blog, I started this blog to inspire people to preserve their memories but as soon as I use the word Scrapbooking they tune out.

The typical responses I get are ‘I am not that crafty/artsy’, ‘It takes too much time’, ‘It’ just not my style’, ‘Takes too much effort’, or ‘I am not the kind of person that would enjoy that’.

It makes me want to scream “You do not have to create a craft project, you just need to preserve YOUR memories YOUR way! Forget the word Scrapbooking and just document YOUR stories and photos.” 

But it got me thinking how did we get to a place where photo albums are no longer created and you have Scrapbookers on one side and those that don’t preserve at all on the other side?

How Scrapbooking is Partly to Blame for Killing Photo Preservation

Prior to the 1980’s:

Everyone printed their photos out and just added them to traditional photo albums. They journaled by writing on the backs of photos or by adding slips of paper with the names, dates, and location.

They  may have also included newspaper clippings and mementos. Everyone did this – men, women, old, young. It is just how you stored your photos and it technically was Scrapbooking.

The beginning of Modern Scrapbooking:

Then in the early 1980’s a woman by the name of Marielen Christensen began creating scrapbooks and wrote the book Keeping Memories Alive, and opened the first scrap-booking store. The age of modern Scrap-booking was born and it took on the look and feel of a craft project with a multi-million dollar industry supporting it.

Women came together at crops to share tips and stories as they created these albums filled with their family stories. This was a good thing as it revitalized family preservation and genealogy. It also established a community of women that gathered much like the sewing circled of old.

But it also had a downside. Many people were quickly categorizing Scrapbooking as a hobby that only women did that had too much free time. They quickly lost interest as it became more complicated and expensive. And men were pretty much excluded. It became a niche market.

Since photos were still being printed from film photo albums were still being created.  But that was about to change.

How Scrapbooking is Partly to Blame for Killing Photo Preservation

Now add in Digital Photography:

At the turn of the century as digital cameras became common and photos were now being stored on computers rather than being printed the traditional photo albums were quickly becoming obsolete.

Everything was now residing on hard drives that had a tendency to fail. Years of families lost their memories in a blink of an eye.

Scrapbooking also began to change and digital scrapbooking was introduced. Traditional scrapbookers hung on but many migrated to digital where there was more room to be creative. Scrapbooking looked even more like a craft – bordering on an art form. It was quite overwhelming for an outsider to figure out where to start.

To make matters worse digital scrapbookers can be just as lazy about printing their albums and memories were at risk of being deleted at any time.

Add to that all of new companies popping up offering great options to ‘quickly’ create photo books. Suddenly you were having to evaluate different printing processes, binding techniques, archival properties, and user friendliness. It was data overload. I’s a wonder why anyone would tackle creating an album.

So began the steep decline of album creation and photo preservation.

How Scrapbooking is Partly to Blame for Killing Photo Preservation

Where we are today:

Today there are two camps – Scrappers and Everyone Else.

Scrappers are seen as house wives with too much time on their hands making paper albums (traditionally or digitally) as a craft hobby. It is stigma that makes it hard to get people to join in.

Try talking to someone that does not scrapbook about your albums and their eyes will glaze over as soon as you say the word Scrapbook. They don’t see the memories anymore they see a waste of time and a lot of crafting. (Just being honest folks.)

The bigger problem is that Everyone Else is a growing segment and they aren’t preserving memories at all. They have adapted to using their camera phones (digital cameras are in decline) and don’t even bother to back them up at all.

Most memories are shot and shared same day through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. There is no preservation anymore. Just moments in time on Social Media – immediately lost. Did you know it is more likely to see a family photo on Pinterest than in an album?

To make matters worse Scrapbooking is a dying industry. Since 2007 the market for scrapbooking information and supplies has been steadily declining. Proof of this can be seen in the latest Creative Memories bankruptcy. They can’t keep up with a generation that see memories as disposable. Scrapbookers are becoming the minority.

So how do we move forward:

We are at a crossroads in photo preservation. We are in the digital age of everything being online and documented but at the same time we could lose all of our memories in an instant.

It’s time that preserving memories changes too. There has to be a way to get our memories, stories, photos preserved without making someone’s eyes glaze over or make it so complicated you need to take classes to achieve it.

As Scrapbookers we are the preservationists of our generation and I believe we have the responsibility to help this generation and the next realize the need to document their memories. We need to bridge the gap and inspire others to preserve THEIR memories THEIR way (not just in crafty Scrapbooks) rather than just sharing fleeting Social Media snippets of their lives.

We are the ones preserving memories so we need to teach others at their level of interest. And if they become ‘Scrapbookers’ – great! But if they just make albums and jot down names, dates, and locations I am just as happy. It means one more person’s history is captured for their grandchildren to explore.

So as we start this journey how can you see us being an ambassador to the next generation:

  • What can we do to help change their minds and get them to preserve their memories?
  • What tools do you think non-Scrapbookers would use to capture there memories? 

If you aren’t a Scrapbooker:

  • Do you want to preserve your memories? 
  • What is stopping you?  How can we help?

These are just some thoughts I have been having lately.  I would love to hear your opinion on the subject.

Mary Signature