In 1987, two women hatched a business plan that became Creative Memories, a direct-marketing company that sells scrapbook materials and techniques to a mostly female clientele through a worldwide network of sales consultants. By the beginning of the new millennium, millions of people had participated in Creative Memories workshops. Many successful imitators also flooded the crafting market with specialized publications, Web sites, tools, and materials, creating an industry worth $2.55 billion by 2004.
As significant as the economic impact of scrapbooking is, however, the claims of importance made by its practitioners rate closer examination. Promising to keep photos safe from deterioration, Creative Memories also sold a worldview, reflected across the industry, that such preservation is essential to human flourishing. Such a claim invites considerations both of how the promoters of memory-keeping envision its working and how memory-keepers themselves distinctively shape their practice. This article takes the view that album-making constitutes a kind of innovative female meaning-making (that is, religion) shaped, in part, by American-style Common Sense epistemology while also reflecting what we might call a sidelong feminism, in which a woman expresses agency, claims her voice, and declares the complexity of her full humanity, all by using modes that, on the surface, appear compliant with patriarchy. This article also uses certain notions of religious testimony to gauge the space between the Common Sense project of the album-making industry and the results produced by album-makers themselves.
- ©© 2010 by The Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture