Although many photos and memories are going digital, scrapbooking is still a big pastime in America. You can go to any craft store and find an aisle devoted to paper, stickers, and pre-made scrapbooks. Although many of the scrapbooks in the National Air and Space Museum Archives’ collections are of the premade store-bought variety, we have a few personalized wooden scrapbook covers that are works of art. Operation Crossroads was the name for the series of atmospheric nuclear weapon tests conducted in the summer of 1946 at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands. To commemorate these events, Col. Donald Putt was given a large scrapbook with the photo and documentary history of the Task Group T-2, the group responsible for the overall supervision of the AAF Airborne installation and a large part of the photography. The wooden cover features a painting of an atomic mushroom cloud originating from the task group insignia. And it was made from airplane veneer!
Mary Charles participated in the 1931 National Air Races in Cleveland, Ohio, where she came in last due to engine problems. She owned three scrapbooks commemorating the 1931 race. The most memorable of these scrapbooks features a wooden cover painted to reproduce artist Charles Hubbell's cover design for the Official Program. Charles added her name and pilots' license number 17050 at bottom and altered the number on the plane on the left.
My favorite wooden works of art are the John E. Parker scrapbooks. Parker was the president of Northwestern Aeronautical Corporation (NAC), which made wooden gliders for the war effort. Allied forces used the unpowered gliders at the Normandy D-Day invasion and at other battles to silently carry troops into enemy territory. Parker designed four scrapbooks to include newspaper clippings and photographs of company activities. The covers feature incredible woodworking. [one_half]
Wood can be a tricky medium to preserve. We keep our scrapbooks in custom-sized boxes in our temperature and humidity controlled storage room and, as in all archives, keep an eye out for pests. The other thing we have to look out for is potential off-gassing from the wood. Museums and archives are wary of wooden storage furniture and need to be cautious with wood in our collections. For now, the scrapbooks have been taken apart, if possible, though the wooden covers are stored with the corresponding scrapbook material. We’ll keep an eye on them.