Using Technology to Frame the Past
Electronic Scrapbooking

A version of this article first appeared in the May/June 1999 issue of Ancestry Magazine

By Mark Howells

Remember those old photo albums bound with string? The kind that had the pasted-in photo-mounts, one for each corner of every picture? Those treasured family albums often wind up in the hands of the family historian. With luck, the photos they contain are not yet physically deteriorating. If we're very lucky, someone took the time to provide names and dates for each photograph. It's odd that we call such mementos of past lives "scrapbooks". They're more like "treasure books" - the "scraps" which they hold are precious gems to the family historian.

Art & Preservation

Scrapbooks have been around since photography first became a medium available to average people. The modern hobby of scrapbooking, however, has come to mean combining photos, stories, and various memorabilia into a creative and attractive display. Artwork, page layout, and preservation techniques combine to make modern scrapbooking a popular arts and crafts pastime. One that has developed a multi-million dollar industry to keep scrapbookers supplied. Acid-free paper, pH-testing pens, Xylene-free adhesives, and archival-quality storage systems are just some of the preservation products which have become a standard part of the scrapbook world. Preservation combines with artistry to make modern scrapbooks not only visually appealing but also as time-resistant as physically possible.

Pictures being worth a thousand words, scrapbooks help breath vitality into the telling of a family's history. Those members of the family whose eyes glaze over when the family genealogist recites the dry list of names and dates of common ancestors are often spurred to interest when the scrapbook gets shown around. A scrapbook's connection to family history is self-evident. In the scrapbook are the pictures, birth announcements, newspaper clippings, child's artwork, event tickets, commencement programs, and the wedding invitations which provide insight into a family's past. Scrapbooks are an excellent answer to the family historian's life-long question "What do I do with the results of my research?". Genealogical information included in a scrapbook can maximize the likelihood that family members will preserve and cherish the hard-won information gathered and analyzed by the family historian. A pile of carefully compiled genealogical research is much too easy to "recycle" once the family historian has passed on. An artistically crafted scrapbook stands a better chance of being kept by the next generation because if it's eye-appeal. The family scrapbook might just be the stimulus for exciting the next generation to study the history of the family.

An Electronic Frame Around A Picture Of The Past

Perhaps the best way to help ensure the time-resistance of a scrapbook is to have the scrapbook in electronic form. Without getting into the life expectancies of CD-ROMs or magnetic disks and tape, electronic scrapbooks do avoid most of the ravages of time experience by physical scrapbooks. Electronic scrapbooking should not be confused with computer-assisted scrapbooking. Both computer-assisted and full electronic scrapbooking rely on the use of scanners and/or digital cameras combined with software for further manipulating the resulting digital images. Computer-assisted scrapbooking includes tools to help the paper-based scrapbooker decorate their projects with computer clip art, photographs, and to print out captions, stories, poems, etc. in tens of thousands of different font styles. Electronic scrapbooking includes the design and production of scrapbooks but then goes beyond computer-assisted scrapbooking through the display and storage of a scrapbook in electronic format.

While there are many software products available for computer-assisted scrapbooking, there are relatively few products on the market for true electronic scrapbooking. This article will not be concerned with the computer-assisted production of printed scrapbooks but will summarize the features available in fully electronic scrapbooking software. These products combine the latest in generally-available imaging technology to produce a digital "frame" in which to mount a family's scrapbook of sepia-toned photographs other related treasures.

Electronic Scrapbooking Software

PhotoRecall Deluxe 2.0 ($39.95 from G&A Imaging Ltd. - see is a software product which creates electronic scrapbooks. It accepts images from digital cameras, scanners, and even helps you search for images off the Internet (mind the copyright!). PhotoRecall provides tools to organize your images and to search and sort them. Image manipulation features such as cropping, "red-eye" removal, and many other image editing tools are included. Electronic scrapbooks created by PhotoRecall can be shared with family and friends by duplicating the original and then making the copy read-only. This feature helps ensure that the scrapbook isn't mistakenly changed or erased. PhotoRecall electronic albums can be duplicated with a single mouse click by their creator. Electronic albums may also be uploaded to the Internet so that they can be shared with the world. PhotoRecall has made creating scrapbooks for display on the Internet simple - no knowledge of hypertext markup language (HTML) is required.

Electronic Scrapbooking within Genealogy Software

The tie between family history and the family album has not been lost on the developers of genealogy software. At least two genealogy software packages have incorporated scrapbooking features into their products. Besides the organization and storage of family history information, these software packages include some basic features for creating family albums.

Ultimate Family Tree Platinum - ($69.95 from The Learning Company - see includes the PhotoEnhancer photo editing utility which allows for image manipulation. The Family Album Maker feature may be used to produce paper scrapbooks with the provided backgrounds and over one thousand historical photographs, maps and flag images. Ultimate Family Tree Platinum provides computer-aided scrapbooking features in addition to its genealogy functionality

Generations Family Tree Grande Suite ($69.95 from Sierra Home - see includes SnapShot Special Edition which can create electronic photo albums to share with family and friends. These electronic albums can be password-protected to be read-only and then shared via the Internet. Photos and images can be organized, managed, and edited using SnapShot. Electronic slide shows can be created to display a family album on your PC as a sequence of images and sounds. SnapShot also produces customized screen savers and PC wall paper from your digital images. Generations Family Tree Grande Suite has true electronic scrapbooking features which compliment its family history software.

Family Album Day

Least you think that the value of the traditional family photo album has been forgotten due to the technology of electronic scrapbooking, be sure to visit the Family Album Archive Project at The Family Album Archive Project (FAAP) is a not-for-profit co-operative organization that seeks to preserve the visual history of the American family album. The FAAP promotes local "Family Album Days" in conjunction with local libraries and historical societies.

At a Family Album Day, people are invited to bring their family albums to their local library or society - the local sponsors of the event. There groups of local historians, archivists, genealogists, and conservators will provide advice on preservation of these "treasure books", how to start family history research, and most importantly, they will digitally preserve the albums with their owners' permission.

The FAAP team digitally scans the family albums and copies them to CD-ROM discs. The original albums are returned to their owners the same day. The album owners then have the opportunity to purchase copies of the CD-ROM version of their scrapbook, low resolution scanned images of their albums for display on the Internet, or printed color copies of their materials. The Family Album Archive Project thus helps to ensure the ongoing survivability of these cherished family treasures.

Avoiding the Scrap Heap

Scrapbooking is an enjoyable arts and crafts endeavor which can provide an attractive end-result for documenting family history. Beyond the creative outlet of using the special pencils, paper punches, and stickers to craft a physical scrapbook, the keyboard- and mouse-created electronic scrapbook can be an easily shared with family and friends as web pages or on CD-ROM discs. Multiple copies of the same electronic scrapbook help ensure that the treasures it contains are not lost if the original is destroyed. The reduced physical decay of electronically-stored information and archive services such as the one described above provide additional insurance that those lovingly-created electronic scrapbooks filled with family history do not end up on the scrap heap of time.

Scrapbooking Resources on the Internet

Learn to Scrapbook - Information for Beginners:

The Scrapbooking Idea Network:

Articles on Scrapbooking:

Tips on Creating Archival Scrapbooks:

Computer-assisted Scrapbooking Software

Creative Photo Albums Deluxe:

Ultimate Scrapbook:

Baby Bits - Electronic Baby Books:

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Using Technology to Frame the Past - Electronic Scrapbooking
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Updated June 4, 2001

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