Men and women 150 years ago grappled with information overload by making scrapbooks — the ancestors of Google and blogging. From Abraham Lincoln to Susan B. Anthony, African-American janitors to farmwomen, abolitionists to Confederates, people cut out and pasted down their readings. In scrapbooks, 19th-century readers spoke back to the media; they treasured what mattered to them. African Americans and women’s rights activists collected, concentrated, and critiqued accounts from a press that they did not control to create “unwritten histories” in books they wrote with scissors. Whether scrapbook makers pasted their clippings into blank books, sermon collections, or the pre-gummed scrapbook that Mark Twain invented, they claimed ownership of their reading. They created their own democratic archives.
This talk and discussion invites the audience to reflect on their own scrapbook making or collecting, and provides profuse illustrations of scrapbooks and cartoons that provide context. It includes a viewing and invitation to leaf through scrapbooks in Ellen Gruber Garvey’s collection. The audience is invited to bring scrapbooks 50 years old or older, for further examination and discussion. A projector for a laptop is required.
This presentation can also focus specifically on African American scrapbooks, Civil War scrapbooks, and/or women’s rights scrapbooks, and can showcase an institution’s collection.