Scrapbook Digitization

Scrapbook Digitization at the Scarborough Museum

Scrapbooks can be an incredible source of information regarding a place and time. However, by their very nature they can self-destruct over time. Often they are filled with newspaper clippings that yellow and become brittle as the years pass. Sometimes clippings and other documents are mounted with tape or other means that damage the exhibits within.

Several of us at the Scarborough Historical Society & Museum are working to preserve some of these treasures through digitization. The first one we have been working on is a medium sized scrapbook donated by 2006. There are nearly 200 pages of clippings of items that the creator found important during the 1930s, 1940s, and early 1950s.

To save the scrapbook we began by scanning each page of the scrapbook in a way that minimized potential damage to the book. The images were scanned as 600dpi color images in TIFF format. These TIFF originals are about 100MB in size and have excellent archival capabilities. The TIFF files are our digital originals and are never modified or changed. Then the TIFF files are imported into optical character recognition (OCR) software and searched for text. Next, the imported files are resampled to 300dpi and changed to grayscale (black & white) and saved as 300dpi PDF files that include the selectable text embedded in the image. Having selectable text allows for searching the files for keywords as a group. These files are also excellent for printing and typically are about 7MB per page, about 1/12 of the size of the original files. Now that we have the images, what do we do with them?

Just paging through the digital images on the computer is fun. For example, in this scrapbook, there are articles about the turnpike between Kittery and Portland being built. I found it amazing that construction began in May 1946 and the pike was open for use only 19 months later on 13 December 1947. The pike cost 50¢ to travel the distance with fewer charges for shorter distances when it opened.

Antique Wall telephone with hand crank - By JGKlein (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Antique Crank Telephone

It was also fun to read about how, in 1950, dial phones came to Scarborough and that the old crank phones could finally be replaced. There were complaints how party-line neighbors would listen in on private conversations and even join in and hopes that someday that would be a thing of the past. That brought back memories for me, as a child, we had an eight-person party line for a while. Our ring was two longs a short and a long. Anyway, I can definitely see how Scarborough historians would find the scrapbook a treasure trove of information about Scarborough and nearby communities.

I found the pages regarding Princess Elizabeth’s wedding and wedding dress to be historically interesting but not of particular genealogical interest. Although I do have a general interest in history, genealogy is my passion. Would the scrapbook help in genealogical research? I thought so, but I wanted to test that premise.

My “Thurlow Test”
I began with Thurlow. I know Bruce from the Museum (he is the Programs Chairman). I also know his family has been in Scarborough for many years. Might they be mentioned in this scrapbook? A quick search found three pages with “Thurlow” mentioned.

On 10 October 1939, a Miss Alice Thurlow attended a wedding shower for Miss Elizabeth Charlotte Moulton. This is the type of information that is important for genealogists wanting to do “friends, acquaintances, & neighbors” (FAN) analysis.

Alice Thurlow & Peter
Kelley, Jr.  1940

In 1940, Alice E Thurlow married Peter W. Kelley, Jr. at St. Joseph’s Church in a service officiated by Rt. Rev. Mgr. John Houlihan. We also learn that Miss Thurlow “is the daughter of Mrs. Harold F. Seal of Bell Street.” Humm. Interesting. I would interpret that statement as Alice’s mother remarrying. Certainly something to theorize, research, and prove genealogically in further research. There is also a photo of Alice and Peter. Although only black & white and newsprint pixelation, it does provide an image of the couple. Also, from the article, we learn that after they return from a honeymoon, they will live on Bismark Street. (Another area of research. Was there a Bismark Street in Scarborough or are they locating to Portland? There is a lot more information, particularly regarding Peter’s family. Any genealogist working on the Thurlow family would love the data and photo provided in this story.

Finally, the third article found mentions that Donald Thurlow was a boy scout who acted as an usher for Scarborough superintendent of schools Franklin H. B. Heald’s retirement testimonial dinner in 1946. This is really cool information because it adds texture to understanding about the individual’s interests. We now know that Donald was interested in the Boy Scouts.

My “Delaware Test”
After finding amazing bits of information on the Thurlow family in just one scrapbook, I thought I’d do one more quick search for another Museum regular. This time I searched for “Anna Delaware.” Instantly the results come back; two pages include both Anna and Delaware.

Anna Wright
1945 newspaper

The first one, from 1945 is the announcement of the engagement of Anna Wright and Cpl. Warren H. Delaware. The article provides their parents names, where they went to school, where they worked, and photos of both Anna and Warren.

The second finding is hand annotated “23 May 1946,” the date of the article. It talks about how Anna and Warren were to marry Thursday. It mentions Anna’s sisters, Mary and Margaret and several other relatives. There is more about Warren’s family as well. There is also a photo of Anna in an amazing wedding dress. From a genealogical perspective, there is almost enough data in those two articles to rough out a family tree.

If you are a member of the Scarborough Historical Society & Museum, can’t make it to the museum, let me know (through the museum) and I will be happy to do a look-up for you. Better yet, if you can make it in, I’ll be happy to show you how to search for your ancestor in the scrapbook collection. If you are not a member, please become a member.

Finally, are you a member of your local historical society? If not, join and volunteer. Besides the benefit of learning more local history, they are bound to have genealogical tidbits galore, maybe even some old scrapbooks that need digitizing that you can help with.

Scarborough Historical Museum, Scarborough, Maine.  Small Scrapbooks Collection; Accession # 06-69.1; various pages, scan images 051, 068, 125, 153, & 164.

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