Having put the effort in to get to this stage with your collection, you’ll probably want to use the items within it in some way or other – even if it’s only to look at them from time to time. If you’ve followed the advice about storage in U5.5, the physical items should be reasonably easy to access and look through. However, there’s probably more that you can do with the digital items. For example, it is a widespread practice to load music files onto mobile phones so that they can be listened to anytime, anywhere. For photos and other images, the use of a slideshow widget (which comes as standard in Windows 7 – but a similar app for other operating systems shouldn’t be too difficult to acquire) will automatically rotate every image file in particular folders, through a small window on your computer desktop. Similarly, images in a particular folder can be specified to act as a rotating background to your screen or as a rotating screensaver image. This will ensure that every now and again you’ll get to see one or other of your collection of images.
A tablet computer is another particularly useful way of increasing the accessibility of your digital objects – especially if you use it regularly. There are a whole host of free or cheap apps that will display objects – one that I particularly like is Sidebooks which can be loaded with PDFs via Dropbox and which can present the files in a bookcase-type format. The ability to be able to call up your digital objects on such a convenient and high resolution device breathes a whole new lease of life into objects that may have been previously rarely looked at. These examples illustrate that there is no need to let your digital items remain hidden inside a computer system’s folder structure – the base files can usually be made visible and accessible; and it is recommended that you explore what can be done.
The above discussion relates primarily to using items that exist within an established collection. However, unless a collection is complete and unchanging, another aspect of ‘use’ is the addition (or removal) of items. As a general rule, it’s better to do this when the need arises, as opposed to letting a backlog build up. The larger the backlog the more daunting the task becomes – especially for things like photos where volumes tend to be large. Of course, there may be some types of collection which rely on absolute up to date accuracy for their integrity. For example, a loft management system will need to be updated immediately a change is made.
Another type of usage which shouldn’t be forgotten concerns third parties. First, the digital versions of OFC collections of valuable items (such as jewellery, paintings etc.) can be very useful when making insurance claims for loss or damage. Second, organised collections, indexes and wish tables can be useful when it comes to passing items on down the family. If you intend to take advantage of these possibilities, you should design your collections and their metadata to serve those particular purposes.