Life at the Mawr: Constructing Her Scrapbook
Initially, I was surprised that there were no descriptions or captions for anything in Passmore’s scrapbook. Living in an age where everything is labeled whether it be a tag on Facebook or a hashtag on Twitter, it seemed odd that there was no form of identification. Ultimately, this lack of captions indicates quite clearly what purpose her scrapbook served. It was to be viewed by close friends and family; people that would know what each photograph referenced. Furthermore, a viewer who has knowledge of the campus and its traditions has the advantage of not needing captions. While flipping through, I realized that I could recognize the buildings and events very easily but this was a privilege. It is amazing that a scrapbook of an alumni has the ability to extend over generations of Bryn Mawr women.
The scrapbook is definitely trying to convey a certain persona of Bryn Mawr College, and gives off the vibe of an intentional item for Frances to share and explain to someone. Passmore came from Minneapolis, so most of her family was probably unable to ever visit her school. Instead, Passmore made her own collection of images to help describe her time at Bryn Mawr. Many of the photographs very pointedly show the notable Pennsylvania gothic architecture and the wealth of activities that Bryn Mawr offers: plays, traditions like May Day and sports, mostly basketball. Fanny’s way of documenting Bryn Mawr mirrors the image that the college was trying to project to the world, to prove that a single-sex institution was just as legitimate of any other place of higher education. Passmore did not organize it chronologically or by theme, nor did she pay close attention to how neat the photos were pasted on the page. This lack of precise presentation supports the statement made by Jessica Helfand in her book Scrapbooks: An American History:
“And so too would the scrapbook begin to move away from the decorative, perfunctory symmetry of the nineteenth century toward a more variegated form that recognized – indeed, celebrated – the individual idiosynchratic , and deeply iconic images of a new era” (xix).
Passmore was making her scrapbook right after the turn of the century and it can be viewed as an artifact from this transition era. There are no real formal conventions followed in the scrapbook, but there is still the leftover sentiments of very formal pictures and scenes.