Monday, January 5, 2015

Cataloging the Family Archives

I've decided on a genealogy project for the year: cataloging the items in my very own family archive. I have been ignoring every scrap of paper, every photograph, every card, letter, and newspaper clipping.  See, I don't know where to start on the piles of possible information I have.  Not knowing has lead to pretending that information isn't just inches away.

This year, however, I have a plan.  I'm cataloging it.  See, I'm a librarian. I'm also just nerdy enough to get a kick out of cataloging a personal collection -- I do it for my books, why not the family archive?

Here's the stumper.  How much metadata is too much?  Is there such a thing? What is important metadata? Should I have a schema that I follow? If you haven't noticed, this is the librarian in me.

I've decided on the Dublin Core schema.  Wikipedia states, "The Dublin Core Schema is a small set of vocabulary terms that can be used to describe web resources (video, images, web pages, etc.), as well as physical resources such as books or CDs, and objects like artworks." Originally, Dublin Core had 15 elements -- it has since expanded for refinement.

Original 15 Dublin Core Elements

I picked Dublin Core because it's simple, there's a set vocabulary for some of the elements (e.g. Type or Format), and I'm willing to learn this for personal and professional reasons.  Next, I will be using LibraryThing for the actual cataloging.  This is what I already use for my books.  It's flexible enough to handle a family archive for genealogy.  The plan is to stick to the fields that LibraryThing already uses (e.g. Title, Creator, etc) and supplement the remaining elements in the Tags field.

Something I haven't decided on is scanning the items.  Ideally, I could skip the scanning until there was a need for a digital copy of an item.  Then again, some items may need scanning because they are fragile.  I think the scanning will probably be done on an "as needed" basis.

My goal for this project is to ultimately know what I have in my collection of items I pulled after my grandmother's death.  Hopefully, this cataloging can continue on to the rest of the genealogy items I have gotten from family.

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