My dad has been laboring over a family project for over a year, with as much dedication and working close to as many hours as he did for Uncle Sam back when he was employed by the federal government. His days and nights have been consumed with family pictures — old photos of his family, mom mom’s family, and the family they made together. He’s been collecting, scanning, editing, and cataloging photos by the thousands. Along the way he’s discovered things he never knew about his own parents, and given me a chance to see pictures of my ancestors that I might never have found otherwise. I was almost at a loss for words when I saw one of my grandmothers in her bathing suit, probably in the mid-1930s, being lifted into the air by a young man — “Grandma looked like she was having fun!?!?” And I was touched by a photo of my other grandmother, holding her first tiny baby against her chest, ever so slightly turned out so she could catch both of their faces as she snapped a picture in the mirror.
During this process my dad has combed through many old family scrapbooks containing not only pictures, but newspaper clippings, cards, and even menus. And like the commonplace books and friendship books dating back to the 1400s, the scrapbooks of my grandparents’ generation were more a source for recording memories, correspondences, and souvenirs, than an artistic presentation of memories past. Scrapbooking as an art form began to gain momentum in the 1980s, and the past fifteen years has shown it grow from a $200 million to a multi-billion dollar industry. More modern households boast “croppers” than they do golfers, and with a broad industry that crosses over into other crafting genres like stamping, card-making, and digital scrapbooking, there’s no denying the hobby’s mass appeal.