Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Archrival Archivals



In the last session, Bryan did a "show 'n tell" about his recent trip to Princeton to look at some archives for his research.

Some special collections / archives allow you to bring in only some paper and a pencil, some allow hand scanners - the one Bryan went to allowed hand-held digital cameras (no flash). After several days of perfecting his Hunchback of Notre Dame impersonation, Bryan came away from his trip with thousands of image files...and no clear way of organizing them.

So he started off organizing the pictures by creating files for each day he was at the archive: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, etc. Because there were lots of little thumbnail pictures, it was still difficult to see what was what.

We discussed a few options - printing out the pictures in greyscale, taking them to a printer, transferring them to PDFs (print first, then scan), using ZoomIt to allow for the capacity to write notes on the images. Of course, it all depends on what you need your materials for and what kind of access you want.

Bryan ended up creating an Excel sheet with columns that he filled in as he went through and read and cataloged each image. He created 7 columns at the top of the sheet, labeled:

- Photo No. (ex. DSCN9906.JSP)
- Title / What It Is (ex. Letter to John Smith)
- Box # (for later citation purposes)
- Folder (where he's keeping it in his computer)
- Description (brief description of what that document contains)

Lorie recommended FreeMind, an open source program to help you map out your ideas and keep track of their connections. She said Bryan could use it to keep track of documents and create links that would immediately take him to the originals he wanted.

Cataloging all of the pictures will take Bryan quite some time, however, once he is completed, it will be an incredibly valuable resource not only to his own scholarship, but perhaps even to the host institution where he found the archive.

The one piece of advice everyone gave Bryan: back everything up! All of it! Print it out, use an off-site backup service, get an external hard drive, whatever - save, save, save. Which is excellent advice for all of us.

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You're Not Alone - Here are some of the members of our group!