I have a confession to make. I am unabashedly addicted to Pinterest. And this is a little surprising for me because I never jumped on the paper scrapbooking craze that’s swept through the U.S. in the last ten years. But Pinterest, so easily accessible on my phone, has me glued (no pun intended) to my screen far too often. I can spend (read this as “waste”) way too much time organizing boards and pinning posts. There’s something gratifying in finding quotes, recipes, home décor, fashion, images, art, articles, stories and everything in between and then organizing them onto pages. There’s no mess, no scissors or glue, no paper cuts and most importantly, I’m not forced to admit how much artistic skill I lack because this is all electronic and involves no creativity.
As an archivist who has spent the majority of her career in history, I recognize that what I’m doing is nothing new, though. Pinterest, is for all intents and purposes, a digital scrapbook. And scrapbooking has always been popular. Both women and men have kept scrapbooks for centuries. People like to save things that catch their eye. They like to be able to go back and reference a poem or an article or a quote. They like to be able to go back admire a pretty image. But most of all, people like to create something that is representative of who they are. Looking through someone’s scrapbook (or Pinterest page) can tell you just as much about a person as reading their diary because what people choose to keep….what they find important enough to save can give you a very accurate look into a person’s soul.
At the History Commission, we have numerous scrapbooks. I came across one today that I thought would be fun to share. It’s part of the Sarah Stillwell Huffman Papers (MS.000104), which also contains a diary and a photograph.
The scrapbook, itself, is full to the brim of everything imaginable – articles, stories, poems, artwork, pictures, etc. Sarah clearly loved words. There are hundreds of poems scattered throughout. She also loved brightly colored images as there are brightly colored advertising cards, images of flowers, animals and people on page after page. There are also several clippings and images related to Arkansas. In the middle of the scrapbook are obituaries of family members. It’s interesting that she chose to save those in the middle of poetry and pretty pictures.
I think the thing that stands out to me the most, as always, is that people don’t change throughout time. Sarah chose poems and images that I, today, would like and would pin on Pinterest. What moved her and what she found to be compelling enough to save isn’t really all that different from what women today might pin. I know looking through other scrapbooks kept by women, that fashion and home décor often reign supreme. These definitely dominate my own Pinterest boards. I also have a board of nothing but compelling quotes because, like Sarah, I love words. And the brightly colored images she clipped? I have an entire board of vintage images, a number of which are old ads.
We often assume that people in the past were different from us and are very removed from us today, but really they aren’t. Working in the world of history and, more importantly, in an archives keeps that in the forefront of my mind. It’s a constant reminder of the importance of the work we do.
Below are some images from the scrapbook. It can viewed in its entirety at our research room Monday through Saturday from 8:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.