The Scrapbooks of D. Joan Richards Neff

For much of the twentieth century, scrapbooking was all the rage for college women. The impulse still exists, even if the medium has changed – what is a Facebook wall or an Instagram feed other than a type of digital scrapbook? The scrapbooks of D. Joan Richards Neff, in IU’s University Archives, offer a glimpse into the life of an IU student in the late 1940s.

Residents of Sycamore Hall. Joan is 4th row, 8th from left. This image appears on page 366 of the 1948 Arbutus yearbook.
Residents of Sycamore Hall. Joan is 4th row, 8th from left.
This image appears on page 366 of the 1948 Arbutus yearbook.

The collection includes four scrapbooks, one from each year Joan was at IU. Her time here was spent not much differently than students today, though of course with a distinctive 40s flair: there were football games, birthday parties for friends, trips to local state parks for picnics, dances and parties at various fraternities and sororities, music concerts and theater productions, dates with different boys (eventually settling on the one she would marry upon graduation, Franklin Neff, IU class of 1949) and of course schoolwork and meetings with professors. Joan typically saved a small token from each of these events for inclusion in her scrapbook, always making sure to include a short note of explanation.

Some tokens are obvious choices: football programs, name tags, ticket stubs, photographs, pressed flowers. Others are meant more to simply spur a memory: napkins, matc hbooks, the corners of dollar bills, a water cup from the train. And then there are the items that are a conservator’s nightmare: a whole cookie(!), a frog eye lens extracted in Zoology class, a friend’s chewed gum (“a special offering for my scrap-book”), the edge of another friend’s panties from her wedding (“which she trimmed to keep the ridge from showing”).

Looking through each scrapbook is itself a wonderful trip through one student’s unique somewhat quirky IU experience. To view the scrapbooks in person, contact the IU Archives.

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