Scrapbooks “An American History”
The scrapbook has long been a popular and vital form of self-expression embraced by a cross-section of American society. “To read another person’s scrapbook” observes Jessica Helfand in Scrapbooks: An American History, “is to acquire a body of knowledge about an entirely different time and place.” Helfand–a prominent graphic designer, art critic, and author–has combined her considerable talents to create one of the most interesting and category-defying books on American culture this year. Through some 200 albums dating from the Victorian era through the present day–albums that Helfand personally curated and researched–Scrapbooks tells the story of ordinary and extraordinary lives, innovative visual ideas, and social change within the larger context of American history. The perfectly presented color photographs of album pages and schematic renderings draw readers right in. And, Helfand’s detailed, yet evocative interpretations will keep them glued to the page. Scrapbooks is a special book that engages readers with a palpable sense of the material qualities of historic scrapbooks, and provides a stimulating presentation of the complex social and cultural worlds out of which they emerged. Like any first-rate scrapbook, Scrapbooks is a treasure-trove worth poring over for hours and hours.