The duPont family scrapbooks are a collection of 15 scrapbooks that chronicle the duPont family, William Sr. & Annie and their children Marion and Willie, who owned Montpelier collectively from 1901 – 1983. Among other duPont family items, they were inherited as part of the house and property by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Within their pages are an array of photographs, newspaper articles and paper notes, giving us a glimpse into the lives of the duPont family. Spanning such a large period of time, the subjects vary widely, from the family’s time at Montpelier, to their other family estates, their immense family of dogs, and all their equestrian events.
Of most interest to us at the Montpelier Foundation, are the early photographs of the property, which show Montpelier as the “duPont era house”, that is after the duPonts completed their remodel of the house, that added many additions to the structure. In documenting the structural changes and the landscape that was inherited after the duPont ownership, these photos provide essential clues which make them an important part of the historical record. Comparing these photographs to present day has helped date landscape features such as the brick walls around the formal garden, or the trees that were in front of the temple, and many others.
In order to provide access to the information found in the scrapbooks, yet maintain and preserve them, we have an ongoing project to digitize the scrapbooks and then to preserve them for long term storage – as delicate works on paper, we want limit the amount of handling to essentially none. The project essentially divides into two parts: photography and preservation.
The approach to digitizing each scrapbook is two-fold: photograph each page spread as well as each individual image. By photographing each page spread, the idea is to in effect create the experience of flipping through the scrapbook pages – just digitally! This allows hands free viewing of the scrapbooks, which helps us maintain and safeguard them. Each image is captured individually, in order to have a high quality digital record. We save each image file twice: once as a TIFF and once as a JPEG. The TIFF format is in keeping with digital preservation standards, as these digital files are among the most stable. The JPEG is for ease of access – these files are smaller and therefore easier to share across digital platforms.
Once a scrapbook has been completely photographed, it moves on to part two. For this we take a very simple approach – implement preventative measures while not altering the pages in any way, i.e. attempting to remove images from paper, etc. To this end, we custom cut pieces of acid free tissue paper to fit between each page of the scrapbook. In creating a barrier between each page, we ensure the photographs or other paper pieces do not touch each other, thus eliminating the risk that they might begin to stick to each other as the ink slowly degrades. Once pieces of tissue paper have been placed in between every page, the scrapbook itself gets placed in between pieces of tissue that will protect both the front and back covers. To aid in containing the pages, we use pieces of cotton twill tape (essentially cotton ribbon), to bind the book together, tying it up just like a present. Finally the scrapbook is placed in an acid free storage box and placed in permanent storage.
Serving as a window to the past, we’re excited to continue our work to document and preserve the duPont scrapbooks for many years to come!
Jenniffer Powers, BA
As the Curatorial & Collections Collections Manager, Jenniffer works behind the scenes and beyond the ropes to provide care and maintenance for the entirety of the Montpelier Collections – both on display and off. Jenniffer is passionate about making collections and collections management accessible to the public and loves using the Collections Department Instagram account to highlight pieces of the collections.