I liked the draft database developed by my sister. But I had a few questions, as well as some ideas for minor tweaks, that I recently brought up with preservation specialist Jill Rawnsley.
Jill, does this database structure make sense to you?
Jill: The database make a great deal of sense to me. Key questions to ask when developing a database are: Who is your audience? Is it for the public or just the family? What level of detail is appropriate? The answers will depend on a combination of user needs and the collection’s depth.
When we have more than one name in the “Who” column, should each name get its own line to make it more practical to sort?
Jill: This depends. If the name is repeated a number of times, it should be listed in the “Who” section. But if people are only listed once or twice, you might consider putting their name in the more descriptive subject column.
Would it make sense to group dates in larger divisions in order to make them more searchable? For instance, “early 1920s” would become “1920-1925.” The way that it’s currently set up, first words like “around” and “early” would defeat the possibility of sorting by date.
Jill: Whenever possible, I think specificity with dates is best. So, your idea of 1920-1925 is good, and further detail (“Thanksgiving, 1921”) can be added to the more descriptive subject column.
Do you think we should do the “Where” column by name of twon first, followed by more detail? To make it more consistently sortable?
Jill: If this is a stand-alone database, town followed by more data is helpful. If you are going to have a small finding aid companion, you can describe the use of the database and you can even tell the location of the studio or house. I would suggest having a finding aid.
Any ideas on how to keep the identification near the photograph (in addition to the penciled number on the photo)? Currently, most of the photographs are in 8 ½ x 11 sleeves divided into four pockets.
Jill: I like the idea of designating one pocket in each sleeve for information on the three photos on that page. I have done that myself. Remember that all of your inventory lists should be printed out and several copies made. Copies should be kept in different locations such as various family members homes.
Special thanks to Jill Rawnsley for her continuing advice and support!
© 2010 Lee Price