The latest exhibition in the Special Collections programme is on the theme of scrapbooks. We hold a number of different types of scrapbook and it’s been quite a challenge to decide which ones to select for the exhibition. In the end we (that’s my colleague Ian Swirles and I) have opted for a selection which we feel best demonstrates the vast range of different uses to which people have put scrapbooks over the centuries. We felt that this really emphasised how the technique and hobby have changed over time.
When I started the background research for this exhibition, I looked at some of the data about the recent popularity of scrapbooking as a hobby. I was amazed to learn that at its peak in 2004, the scrapbooking industry was estimated to be worth $2.5 billion! I imagine some of the early scrapbookers whose books survive here in Special Collections would find that hard to believe.
I’d probably highlight two items in particular that really caught my attention as we put the exhibition together. The first was the scrapbook created by Ernest Frizelle, author of the Life and Times of the Leicester Royal Infirmary; the makings of a teaching hospital 1766-1980. The book itself isn’t the largest scrapbook in the collection but it is certainly amongst the most dense! Frizelle used the scrapbooking technique as a means of capturing and compiling a massive amount of information, linking it to his reference sources and cross-referencing to his draft book. The best comparison I can make is that he used his scrapbook as a database. Very impressive and doubtless very effective!
The second item that struck me was a 19th century scrapbook, SCD 01040. It couldn’t offer a more stark contrast with Frizelle’s scrapbook. This one gives no personal information about the compiler and does not focus on any particular theme. The compiler seems to have been indiscriminate, gathering together any form of pictorial printed material, ranging from landscapes both in England and overseas, printed illustrations for popular books such as Little Red Riding Hood depicted above, and sentimental and lavishly illustrated prints, drawings and watercolours. We don’t know the background to the item but my guess is that the compiler was young and female, probably dazzled by the improved availability of colourful printed material as the costs of printing came down, and so proud and excited to be able to arrange the material in her very own book.
If you’d like to pop along to see the exhibition, we’d be delighted to see you. It’s open from 3rd October 2016 to 3rd February 2017, 9.30-4.30 Monday to Saturday and 12.30 to 5.30 on Sundays in the basement of the David Wilson Library on the main University of Leicester campus.