Reimagining the Scrapbook

Scrapbook page
A page from my childhood scrapbook

Did you keep a scrapbook in your childhood? Was it something like this – black pages with all kinds of ephemera pasted or taped to them?

It’s always a delight to pull out an old photo album or scrapbook and take a trip down memory lane. It’s even more exciting when we get our hands onto an ancestor’s scrapbook. Unfortunately none of us ever heard of anything like “archival quality paper” at the time we were saving our precious childhood treasures. As a result, some of those treasures are in pretty sad shape.

It dawned on me a while back that my family history blog had become a sort of scrapbook. This wasn’t anything I had planned, it just sort of happened. I thought about it a while and decided I like it. Apparently, my family does too. More of them are email subscribers to the site and I’m getting more feedback from them too. Yes!

A blog scrapbook
A catchy title and graphic will grab their attention

What does it take to build a scrapbook-style blog? Not much. My Moultrie Creek Journal blog is hosted at using the Personal plan ($36/year). This gives me a domain name along with extra space for all the photos and graphics. I’m using the Fictive theme which gives a funky kind of look. Even better, it supports post formats. Most of the recent WordPress themes include post formats. With post formats the look of each post differs a bit depending on what that post contains. In the example above, the post is formatted as a photo post. Notice the camera icon above the title. It spotlights the photo of my choice at the beginning of the post.

The post below uses the video post format. This is useful for videos hosted with WordPress’s VideoPress (requires a Premium plan) or via an online platform like YouTube.

Video post format
Video post format example

Other post formats include standard, quote, link, audio, gallery, status and aside. Not every WordPress theme supports post formats and those that do may not support all of them. Each theme presents each post format differently. You’ll notice the Gazette’s theme has a more formal look including a beautifully “framed” spotlight photo. The Journal is much more casual in both style and color scheme. Take advantage of the information pages and demos in the WordPress theme catalog to see how each handles post formats.

Capt. BarrettWhat about content?

I’ve got tons of family ephemera and while I don’t know the story behind a lot of it, there’s plenty I do. My father shuttled water to Guantanemo Bay after Castro shut off the water. This news clipping documents his last trip. I have more clippings related to this project which will get posted sometime later.

One of my favorite topics is “Lost St. Augustine”. These are photos and stories about favorite places that no longer exist. And, since this scrapbook supports more kinds of media than just paper, I often include a photo slideshow or a video clip.

By taking advantage of WordPress’s categories and tags features, I don’t have to tell my stories in any particular order. The category list in the sidebar serves as a table of contents while the tag cloud makes a great index. And, at the bottom of each article, visitors will find several recommendations linking to posts related to the post they are currently reading.

My scrapbook doesn’t just interest my immediate family. It has also attracted research cousins. WordPress is very search-friendly and even my oldest posts are easily discovered via today’s search engines. The commenting component provides a platform to discover if we are related and share what we know.

If you are looking to kick your family history up a notch, try creating your own online scrapbook. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

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