Life is lived in daily chunks that add up, over time, to history.
Some chunks are more momentous than others, but given enough time even insignificant details take on a cachet of importance.
That's why Karen Barnes likes newspapers. "They are the best history books. They are so right there, as it happens. They let you experience it."
Her family has always been a big saver of newspaper articles. "I have a stack I inherited from my mother — when Kennedy was shot, when the Beatles came to America." And lots and lots of clippings pertaining to her father, Eugene Cederlof, who spent his career with the Salt Lake Police Department.
"After only three weeks on the force, my dad's name appeared in the paper. The papers reported his life," she says.
Recently Barnes compiled all those clippings into a scrapbook. "It reminds me of a quilt — piecing together a variety of colorful materials of someone's life through newspaper clippings. When finished, the quilt is turned over and a beautiful pattern appears, revealing a quality life."
Debbie Anderson, too, is an avid newspaper clipper. "Long, long before the advent of the Internet or 24-hour news channels, the newspaper was my favorite window on the world.
"Even when I was in grade school, I clipped articles about the origins of holidays, recipes, articles about upcoming events in our city, articles about subjects we were learning in school, articles on art (my favorite subject), birth announcements or obituaries of extended family, and of course, any time that a friend or family member had their picture in the paper for any reason, I clipped that."
Anderson ended up with a file cabinet full of clippings, and she also likes to incorporate them into scrapbooks — another of her passions.
"Newspaper articles truly help place the events in context and provide more detail and interesting information than I could ever convey otherwise," she says.
One of her favorite things is doing scrapbooks built around trips her family takes — the current project is New Orleans — and she always buys a local newspaper to get local flavor, Anderson says.
It used to be that newspapers were considered huge no-nos in scrapbooking. They are full of acid and lignin, both of which are harmful to photos and other documents, says archivist Jeanne English. And the papers turn yellow and brittle with age.
But techniques and materials have been developed to allow newspapers to be incorporated into keepsake albums.
Deacidification sprays, such as Archival Mist, have been around since the early '70s, mostly used in museums and archives. And although they are still rather expensive, they are more widely available to consumers. They work especially well on whole pages or sections, says English.
Another option, especially nice for older clippings, is to wash them in distilled water. "A lot of people think this will turn it into papier-mche," she says. "But it actually strengthens the paper. It removes the acid, but the fibers in the paper also bond as they expand in the water."
New clippings, she says, can also be washed. But it's also hard to beat today's color copiers. "They are a marvelous option. They create a copy very much like the original."
Actually, says Al Thelin, another archivist who has served as a consultant for Creating Keepsakes scrapbook magazine, "the truth is that if you put newspaper clippings on a page by themselves inside sheet protectors, they will be fine. Their acid is not going to go anywhere; there's no out-gassing process. I wouldn't put them opposite rare documents, but you don't need to be afraid of using newspaper if it's handled right."
Thelin also came to appreciate the value of newspaper clippings at an early age. Growing up in the '50s, he says, "I was a science freak. I clipped the articles on Sputnik and putting monkeys in space. I loved all that. And Elvis going into the army and getting his hair cut."
At the time, they were fun; now they provide an interesting perspective on life. "It's a hoot to look back at some of the old ads." The Thelins have seven children, and they kept a complete newspaper for the day that each one of them was born.
That's the great thing about scrapbooking with newspapers, he says; they give you so much context.
"There's touchy-feely emotion to a newspaper," adds Robin Erickson, circulation transportation manager for the Newspaper Agency Corporation and who, with Sheri Earl, was in charge of a recent newspaper scrapbook contest sponsored by the agency.
The response to the contest was overwhelming, says Erickson. And picking winners (Barnes and Anderson were among them) was a "hard, tear-jerking, wonderful, inspirational experience." Looking at the scrapbooks gave her a real feeling, she says, of "the passion of reading the newspaper and what it does for our lives."
A lot of the scrapbooks in the contest focused on the events of Sept. 11 — think what a historical record that will be in a few years, says Erickson. But a lot of books featured other aspects of life.
Adrianna Smith, 12, for example, noted: "My brother, Cody Smith, loves baseball. Last year was a great year for him and his team from Taylorsville. I made this scrapbook and gave it to him last Christmas." The book contained newspaper clippings on all of Taylorsville's games.
A touching book was compiled by Kaitlyn Faraone, 12, in memory of her father, James Faraone, a Salt Lake police officer killed in an accident on I-80 on Sept. 18. Clippings told of the accident, the funeral; and other pictures and text told of Kaitlyn's love for her father.
Megan Larsen, in the junior division (13-18), documented the Sea Trek journey that her brother and father participated in. Talia Hristou dedicated her book to the Judge Memorial girls basketball teams and coaches.
The contest was so popular that NAC, which prints and distributes both the Deseret News and the Salt Lake Tribune, is planning additional contests this year.
The only thing you have to watch for, jokes Barnes, "is that you can get addicted. But I do love it. Working on the books is so fun, and when you're done you have this treasure that will last and be handed down to the next generation."