Preserving our collections

Preserving our collections
Theatre scrapbooks in the National Library of Australia collection
13 June 2019

Thanks to the generosity of donors during the 2018 appeal, preservation work will soon conclude on the extraordinary collection of PROMPT theatre scrapbooks in the National Library’s collection. In Part 3 of this blog, Director of Preservation Services Vicki Humphrey writes about the intention of fans who lovingly sought to capture their favourite stars in home-made scrapbooks:

Conservator Kerry McInnes at first thought that many of the scrapbooks were the work of a single enthusiast because of the similarities she noted in techniques across a number of the books.

Kerry noted that it became apparent to her as she worked that the “scrapbooking” was done with great care and consideration for the material. There were only two or three album exceptions to this demonstrated deliberate care.

Conservator Kerry McInnis indicates an area where excess adhesive has spread between pages. When the pages where opened fully, the top left corner of the right hand opening was “skinned” where it had stuck to the other page. Otherwise this example shows carefully considered layering of multiple inserts.

In many of the books the inserted material was placed so that page turning would not tear or crease the material and the material was oriented sensibly for ease of reading.

She noted that complex layering of items on a single page, including flaps and folds were attached intuitively to enable access to the items underneath.

Hand turning scrapbook pages

Complex layering and folds feature in the scrapbooks, including this book within a scrapbook.

In approaching the treatment, Kerry had to consider how much intervention was appropriate. It was clear that the maker had made conscious decisions about what to stick to the scrapbook pages, and thus about what would then be concealed in doing so. So although there was obviously information on the verso of some of the pasted down material, no attempt was made to lift the inserts and only those that were detached were repositioned. Some loose items were encapsulated in archival polyester and placed inside the opening in which they had been found – these were the cases where the original position of the item/s could not be definitely determined.

The conservation work respected and maintained the intention of the maker and no attempt was made to change the scrapbooks.

This has been a really interesting project because of the variety of material in the scrapbooks and because of conservation treatment problem-solving associated with make-up of the books. Kerry regularly expressed her enthusiasm for the project and the sense of achievement she has felt from contributing to making these culturally rich documents available to a wider audience through digitisation.

Many of the PROMPT theatrical scrapbooks are now available online. 

Read Part 1 of this blog.

Read Part 2 of this blog.

Looking after the Library’s collections