Collection Organization Time

It’s been really busy around here, as I have been working on upgrading my collection records. While all of you have been busy watching Marie Kondo helping people declutter their homes, I’ve been busy making sure all my stuff and the information about each piece is readily accessible.

I recently did a card count (I have always kept a card for each item of clothing and for each accessory) and discovered that I now have over one thousand pieces in my collection. That’s not counting any of the paper items. I’ve been fairly conscientious about record keeping, but after reading the book in my photo above, Managing Costume Collections, I realized that much of what is known about each piece is either in my head or in an old blog post. So much of the supporting evidence I’ve collected (much of which has been emailed to me by many of you) is available only in files on my computer.

One of the things Louise Coffey-Webb pointed out is how fast digital systems change, and how quickly things like floppy disks become obsolete. This combined with a recent major computer failure has convinced me that hard copies are good. Actually, I’ve always thought that, but I have been too lazy and cheap to invest the time and money to make sure all the information I have about each item is stored together.

Several years ago I wrote about my storage and organization system. While all that still works for me, I have decided to add a physical file for each item. I’m starting with the newest acquisitions, and hope I can also work through my collection so that eventually most items have their own folders.

Every item has a number that starts with a year close to the time it was made and worn. I don’t have every year in the system, only those that end in three or seven, like 1943, 1947, 1953, and so on. My new skating sweater is from the early 1940s, so it is categorized as 43. The 1 means it is a garment (2 is for shoes, 3 is for hats, and so on), and the 29 means it is the twentieth-ninth clothing item for the early 1940s.

This number is used everywhere the sweater is referenced – on the folder, the file card, in the book of photos, and on a piece of twill tape sewn inside the sweater. Hopefully there is no way the information I’ve gathered about this sweater can be separated from the garment.

So, what goes in the file? So far I’ve got photos and information about the roller skating club from the yearbook of the school and an ad from the rink where the club held their meetings. I have the obituaries of the brothers who were the likely owners of the sweater. I’ve included the sales slip. On the front I’ve attached photos of the sweater, and have listed the contents. At the bottom of the folder is the date I blogged about it. Eventually I might find a catalog that shows my sweater style for sale. That will be added to the file. Hopefully I’ll get an email from a Przysucha heir, which will then go into the file. The possibilities are so exciting!





Filed under Collecting

11 responses to “Collection Organization Time

  1. jacq staubs

    Can’t imagine the next step! Enormous undertaking!


  2. As if your project weren’t enough — I highly recommend an internet archive site to back up your blog posts. (It’s free!) I learned about the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine from Fritzi Kramer’s Movies Silently blog.
    It is easy to use, and I’m following her advice to make a spreadsheet with the names, dates, and URLs of my posts. You post the URL into the “Save page now” box on the Wayback machine page, it takes a few seconds (more for long posts,) and then your saved post appears. Once you get into a rhythm, it goes smoothly. I found it handy to add the “save page now” site to my menu bar so I move from tab to tab and can paste an url to my spreadsheet while the archive is loading, or vice versa. I only wish we knew about this before we had hundreds of posts to save!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I use Backblaze as a backup (paid annual service that, once it’s made an initial sweep of your computer, then automatically updates only those things on your computer that have changed, as they change). It’s not expensive, even for a cheapskate. So worth it for the peace of mind. Live by the assumption that eventually your computer will die and everything on it will be lost. It’s pretty much guaranteed.

    In addition to the paid service, about once a quarter or so, I upload my entire BDV inventory file [a gargantuan Excel file that has every bit of information about every item I’ve ever bought or sold for BDV] to Google Drive. I don’t override the previous version, I just name it with the current date and let it sit. It’s free and on their system takes up very little room so not a big deal.

    Twice a year I burn all my personal photos onto a thumb drive (and if I’m feeling ambitious and paranoid, also onto a CD/DVD). I try to save to FB, Amazon Prime, Dropbox, and other free photo storage services the most precious ones, just in case.

    I do the thumb drive and CD/DVD thing for my entire BDV business file (consisting of all my business-related computer folders — including all the photos). I then do the same for my personal/household computer folders. The entire process takes just a couple of hours, at most.

    All my pre-digital “important” photo negatives I keep in a little firesafe (from Home Depot), along with passports, legal documents (will, etc.), and, most important, love letters.

    If I hear the phrase “spark joy” one more time I’m going to burst into flames.

    p.s. Find the blog post(s) in which you mention each item, print and add to the item’s folder. The posts will include all the relevant info gleaned from whatever source(s).


    • My gosh, but your post is exhausting me! I am now printing each blog pot as I make it, and I try to print a few every day to boot.

      PS> My love letters are all in a box in the basement. It might be time to rescue them.

      Spark joy!


  4. A big job, yes, but what fun to go through everything once again. I agree about paper files. Digital photos are hard to keep in order. I have several blog posts with big X boxes where a photo is gone, lost when I tried to clean out files on my phone or iPad. And I lost several years of quilt photos when Webshots closed down.


  5. An archivist at heart! What a fitting undertaking for the creator and head curator of BAM (Bramlett Archive and Museum).


  6. I’m so happy to hear you are keeping physical as well as digital archives. I admit I love paper, but what scares me about digital files alone is (as Louise Coffey-Webb says) technology changes so fast. We spent weeks copying all our videotapes of the family onto CD’s. Now they are saying we should copy those to thumb drives. What’s next?? Thanks for another great post.


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