Past, Paper, Scissors

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In an era of Facebook and Instagram, it’s important to recall that once we collected our own histories by pasting them into scrapbooks. Northwestern University Library celebrates that tradition with a new exhibit, Past, Paper, Scissors: Scrapbooks from the Northwestern University Library Collections, running now through January 3, 2014 in both the main University Library and the lobby of Deering Library. It features 28 scrapbooks that offer an intimate glimpse into life on- and off-campus as far back as the late nineteenth century.
“These amazing books demonstrate the desire to save bits of information that would otherwise be lost,” says University Archives assistant Yvonne Spura, curator of the exhibit. The scrapbooks she selected focus on the themes of student life, sports, Northwestern’s contributions to the performing arts, the University’s involvement in altruistic endeavors, and life beyond Northwestern.
There are scrapbooks by famous and not-so-famous alumni, including Lloyd Thaxton (television host and co-creator of Tiger Beat magazine); football Hall of Famer Otto Graham; and Paul Luker, who collected ladies’ handkerchiefs during the years 1906 to 1916. Most are from University Archives, but other special libraries and collections supplied fascinating scrapbooks including one on Chicago’s Pullman strike of 1894; Zanzibar circa 1909; and a private scrapbook from the composer John Cage.
Each scrapbook is displayed open to a single page-spread, but the use of QR codes in the exhibit cases allows viewers to use their smartphones to visit an online version of the exhibit where they can virtually peek at additional pages.
In conjunction with the exhibit, Archives and the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities are co-sponsoring a lecture called “Reading the Remnants: American Scrapbook History,” by Ellen Garvey, an English professor from New Jersey City University who specializes in the history of scrapbooks. The lecture takes place on November 13th at 4 p.m. in University Library’s Forum Room.
University Library is located at 1970 Campus Drive on Northwestern’s Evanston Campus. The exhibit is free and open to the public 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays ,from Sept. 17 through January 3 (holiday hours vary; please check here for details). Members of the Northwestern community with a valid WildCARD can visit during all open library hours. For more information, contact Clare Roccaforte at 847-467-5918 or