New exhibit celebrates scrapbooking
Cut and Paste shows off vast collection of archival material
By: Scott Hayes
| Posted: Wednesday, Sep 05, 2012 06:00 am
Cut and Paste
Exhibit runs Tuesday, Sept. 4 to Sunday, Oct. 21
Musée Héritage Museum
5 St. Anne Street, in St. Albert Place
Call 780-459-1528 or visit www.museeheritage.ca for more information.
It’s a hobby that seems to have only sprouted up in popularity in the last decade or so but scrapbooking actually has a long tradition. Now, the Musée Héritage Museum is about to prove that fact with an exhibit room full of interesting and precious mementoes from its own vast archives.
Cut and Paste opens next week. According to curator Joanne White, scrapbooking has been around for hundreds of years although it hasn’t always been called that.
She said it all originated with ancient Greek philosophers who developed a memory system called loci communes, also known as commonplaces. People later took on that concept when paper became more available and applied it to mementoes and ideas.
“When mass printing came about, then all of a sudden they had interesting images and things. The scraps then came when they started doing colour printing. The leftover bits and pieces from larger print jobs were too precious to throw away so people kept them,” White said.
These bits and pieces were then organized and filed into “commonplace books” starting in the 17th century. Later, as printing became more and more commonplace and photography developed, friendship books started to arise. Those bits and pieces were soon in such high demand that printers began to purposely make collectible images.
“The friendship books were books where a visitor would come to your house and write something in your book or do a drawing, or leave a pressed flower as a memory of your visit,” White said.
These early albums in the 18th century contained different sized slots for people to insert photos called cartes de visite. These were the first mass-produced photos and they were very similar to calling cards. Cabinet cards came later and they were larger and sized to be displayed on their own if desired.
Archives hold many treasures
Over the years, the museum has amassed a wide variety of photo albums and keepsakes from numerous personal and group collections. There are photos going way back to the early 1900s, plus other keepsakes and trinkets that haven’t been shown publicly in years.
White sees the exhibit as a treasure trove of old memories, some as obvious as the photo for the St. Albert Antiques, a hockey team sponsored by the Knights of Columbus. That team participated in a nationwide francophone unity event held in Montreal during Canada’s Confederation celebrations in 1967. She keeps expecting that people would complain about showing up and seeing their old Girl Guide photo on the wall.
“We don’t know who some of these people are,” she said, recalling a similar exhibit of old photographs from a few years ago. That show featured a tap dancing group.
“I thought I was going to get in trouble, that one of them was going to come in and say, ‘How could you put that up?’” she laughed.
Except for one Second World War scrapbook, everything in the exhibit, including the tiara, comes directly from the museum’s own archives. It’s a relic from a Beta Sigma Phi sorority chapter that was located in the city. The tiara was a special costume accessory during Valentine’s Day dances and other special events.
In addition to the many photographs and scrapbooks on display, the exhibit also contains a selection of interesting old postcards, brochures and posters.
Archivist Rene Georgopali calls exhibits like this an excellent way to not only give the public access to otherwise hidden gems but also to demonstrate the enormous value of what archives mean to society in general. She especially likes how Cut and Paste occurs during Archives Week.
Another reason, she added, was because it helps to shed some light on the always active and ongoing work that archivists do behind the scenes.
“We just had an archivist this summer process a number of records from women's organizations in St. Albert and some scrapbooks from these organizations will be exhibited,” she explained. “It is exciting to show the public some of the items we have recently been working on.”
In conjunction with this exhibit, the museum will also have another small selection of images from the newly acquired Victor Post collection on display for the month, starting on Thursday, the night of the last Art Walk of the season.