Dissective Nostalgia

This blogspace will allow for an ongoing discussion on topics of global and local significance, specifically as they relate to our discussion on 21 October.

It is my understanding that, to date, you have come to understand certain contemporary processes of globalization through the lenses of more invisible structures such as class struggle, nationhood and professional propriety.

Today, I'd like to begin by leaving global behind for a moment, and thinking purely local. I'm going to discuss design in the context of writing and history, and share with you one particular project that has become a catalyst and a conduit for some of my own ongoing questions about visual thinking, cultural disparity and the paradoxical relationship between memory and memorabilia.

By way of disclaimer, let me just say that my comments are unquestionably biased toward my own interests, perspectives and proclivities. I am a designer, a writer, an educator, a mother, a collector and a critic.

To begin, rather than assigning readings, I'd like to direct our conversation to the images here.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

An Edwardian Scrapbook

Meticulously kept album documenting the childhood of a son born to a family of daughters—includes photographs, ephemera and copious captions detailing one boy's life in Edwardian England.

The Girl Graduate, Part One

Memory book kept by an affluent young midwestern woman in 1926, in which she documented her final year in high school through cards, letters, photos and extensive annotation.

The Girl Graduate, Part Two

Also from the 1920s, a scrapbook from a Pittsburgh woman who similarly documented her final year in high school—and saved every letter she was sent, creating a kind of makeshift origami of her page compositions.

Gray Book

Selected page from a 1964 scrapbook. Because of the range of items included, this album reflects a physical dimensionality that recalls the "origami"-like constructions in The Girl Graduate, Part II.

Victorian Death Book

Scrapbook from 1894 in which someone pasted hundreds of Ohio death notices onto the pages of a math text. The practice of reusing books (particularly text books) was not uncommon and often reflected the paucity of a family's allocations for leisure activities.


Like the exercise of the exquisite corpse, this painting was produced by six different Pakistani artists. Currently on view at the Aldrich Museum for Contemporary Art, these collaged paintings represent a particular form of collaborative work that has an unusual formal history: the Urdu term "karkhana" describes the kind of painting workshops patronized by Mughal emperors who ruled the territories of present-day India and Pakistan. (Multiple artists would have worked on a single painting under the direction of a master, each contributing visual components according to their particular skills.)

Traveling Scrapbook

A contemporary exercise in collaborative collage — at once extremely individualized and globally limitless.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Mrs. Mayberry

A mysterious "Mrs. Mayberry" appears to be at the helm of this little photographic odyssey, which Jason found at a flea market not long ago. Like so many scrapbooks, this series reminds us that the scrapbook maker, while hardly a design specialist, is the album's photographer, designer, author and not infrequently, its inevitable protagonist.

California Odyssey

Page from a scrapbook made by a young California man in the 1920s. Complex page compositions incorporate collage, illustration, detailed captions and casual photography.