Indexing Arrangements

If I was to catalogue all the items as I removed them from the Display Case, I needed a clear indexing regime. There seemed to be two options; either to create a separate index, or to include the items in one of my existing indexes. I have some experience to draw on in making this choice. In my earlier work on Mementos, I’ve set up an index for my own personal items (with a Ref. No. prefix of PAW), and another index for items special to both myself and my wife (with a different Ref. No. prefix). For the most part, this separation has worked fine, but occassionally I’ve forgotten which set an item might be in, and I’ve found myself having to check both indexes. In fact, I’ve concluded that it will be better to merge them at some point in the future, especially as both indexes have the same fields, and the different Ref. No. prefixes will ensure uniqueness.

In fact, this assembly of different sets of material in the same index has already been shown to work in my PAWDOC work filing system. This includes many different types of items ranging from documents to ring binders and 35mm slides. All have different Ref. No. prefixes which not only ensure uniqueness in the numbering system, but also enables different sets to be stored in different places. The PAWDOC filing system has been stress-tested for over 40 years and has demonstrated that this approach does work in practice.

Taking all this into account, I decided I would simply add these display case items to my personal PAW mementos index; and that I would employ the prefix ‘X’ in front of the reference number. I chose X because I wanted to make the Ref. No as short as possible, as easy to write as possible, and as clearly distinguishable as possible, because I anticipated having to mark some of the display case items in small font with a marker pen.

I’ve always found marking items to be a bit of challenge. For many of the items in my document collection (for which there was no need to retain the integrity of the items), I was able to just write the Ref. No. onto the top left of the document. However, sometimes there wouldn’t be enough empty space to write in the Ref. No., or the material wouldn’t absorb the felt tip pen ink. In these cases, I wrote the Ref.No. on a rectangular piece of paper with adhesive backing and then stuck it onto the item. For the items in my loft storage experiment I’ve used stringed labels, though sometimes it’s been difficult to find a way to attach them: and for the memento collections already mentioned, I’ve been using cut pieces of Post-IT notes which have an adhesive backing which peels off very easily. This last solution ensures that the items concerned are not defaced – but I find that many of the labels simply come off in the course of handling the items, turning pages, or with the passage of time.

For this exercise, therefore, I decided I would try and do it properly and find out what the professionals do. On trawling the net, I quickly found a very useful Labelling and Marking Booklet produced by The Collections Trust with the help of Vivien Chapman at the National Conservation Centre, National Museums Liverpool (NML). This advises that not only should you give a unique number to each accessioned object and securely label or mark it with this number; but also that all detachable parts of an object should be marked using suffixes to the Object number. The latter part  of this advice was of particular significance because some of the computer objects in the display case have accessories, documentation, and  boxes with removable inserts.

Having taken this advice on board, and sticking to the principle of keeping the Ref. No as short as possible, I decided on the following reference number scheme:

  • Use the prefix ‘X’ followed by a hyphen followed by a three-digit number starting with 001 where, for numbers less than 100, there are two leading zeros;
  • For single items with no detachable parts, use the next available number, for example, X-015;
  • For items with detachable parts, add another hyphen and follow it with a serial number with no leading zeros, for example, X-056-1, X-056-2, X-056-3. Note that, in this case, there would be no X-056: the main object would have the first of those numbers – X-056-1.

In addition to the Ref.No., the existing index I intend to use contains the following fields: Description, Facet 1, Facet 2, Publication Date, Earliest Year, Physical Location, Digitisation Method, Electronic Format, # of Digital Files, Creation Date, Notes. The Description field can contain any text unconstrained by length. This is how I shall be indexing the items in the display case and all their accompanying accessories and boxes.

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