Our ancestors initially used plain paper albums to arrange their photographs with captions written
underneath until commercially manufactured albums became available. These albums figured
prominently in the decorating scheme of nineteenth century parlors and were displayed beside the
family bible for visitors to view. Often, the albums contain the name of the owner.
Mid-nineteenth century photo albums often resembled bibles.
These nineteenth century albums evolved from scrapbook pages to pre-cut albums back to scrapbooks.
As albums lost their formality and amateur photography became popular, albums became a form of personal expression. These albums portrayed family unity and revealed a personal identity. Albums, with their imaginative arrangements, decorative cutouts, and artifacts, are the predecessors of the contemporary scrapbook.
One of the most often asked questions at my presentations on family photographs is what to do with images that are in albums. The first suggestion is to follow the basic rules for extending the longevity of any photographs by placing them in an area that does not experience variable temperature and humidity.
Conservators suggest keeping the album in its original state unless it is extremely damaged.
If your album has been extremely damaged, Preserving your Family Photographs details suggestions for possible restoration.