U5.4.3 Digitise – Choosing to retain or discard

Once an item has been digitised the critical question arises – “should I keep this or should I dispose of it?”. It’s critical because when you get rid of a physical object you are getting rid of many characteristics which cannot be experienced with the digital object (see U3.4 – the choice between physical and digital).

Sometimes, the initial motivation to undertake the OFC project may have been to get rid of a load of stuff in which case you may be more inclined to dispose of things than to keep them. On the other hand, sometimes the objects you are dealing with are things you feel a great deal of affinity for and which you have had for a long time. In this case, you may find it difficult to dispose of some of these things. Regardless of which of these positions you are in, it’s always worth remembering these two things:

  • When you take a decision to destroy something that you’ve digitised, you can take heart that its digital counterpart will still be there for you to look and enjoy.
  • With a hybrid collection containing just a few physical examples, the clutter of the physical can be eliminated while still retaining some examples of the physical for their special properties to be enjoyed.

Even with these two thoughts in mind, you may find it helpful to have some clear rationale for making such decisions – as described in the ‘Excluding items’ section of U5.3.  You may get some ideas for what such rationale might be from the following list of types of physical items that were retained in a memento collection (as reported in a broader study of the intrinsic value of physical objects):

  • Items for which only the originals confirm their validity
  • Trophy items to be collected and enjoyed in the future
  • Publications with fixed spine bindings and/or special papers
  • Publications which mention, friends, colleagues or the Owner
  • Items published by an organisation or programme that the Owner works/worked for
  • Items that the Owner has written, produced, assembled or made a significant contribution to
  • Physical features which make it difficult to digitise the item and/or to reconstruct it from the digital copy
  • Items illustrating a physical form due to a development in technology
  • Items of an age that provides a quality of uniqueness
  • Items possessing aesthetic or artistic quality including photos
  • Items that the Owner wants to keep as mementos of his and her life
  • Items that you want to have easy access for showing to others
  • Items that do not belong to the Owner

Of course, these are just a few of the possible reasons for keeping physical objects. The key is to understand what your own reasons are and to apply those reasons consistently.

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U5.4.2 Digitise – Titles, metadata, indexes and labelling

Digital objects are held in files which have names (file titles) and a variety of associated descriptive information (metadata). In the Windows operating system the metadata is referred to as a file’s ‘properties’; whereas for the Macintosh the metadata is obtained by selecting ‘Get Info’.  While the content of the metadata is not openly displayed and is largely controlled by the operating system, the content of the file title is very visible and almost entirely controlled by the user, and so provides a wonderful vehicle for including key descriptive information about the object(s) in question. Hence, it is recommended that meaningful file titles are created whenever possible so that the contents are comprehensible without relying on any kind of folder structure or associated index. Sometimes this can produce long file names, but the advantages to be gained in terms of clarity and communication usually far outweigh any disadvantages of having lengthy names up to the limit set by the operating system. However, one thing to look out for, under the Windows operating system at least, is that the permitted total file name length includes the length of the path name of the folders that the file lies within. This sometimes manifests itself by the system not allowing you to move a file to its final destination in a folder with a pathname longer than that of the folder in which the file was prepared. Hence, it’s generally a good idea to keep the names of upper level folders as short as possible to give you plenty of leeway with the length of the individual file titles.

A file title can be used to contain information that you might actually be looking for in the file itself. For example, if you digitise your annual car insurance policy papers, you could include the name of the insurer, the period covered and the amount you paid for the cover, in the file title. Taking this approach may actually mean that looking at the file title is sufficient and that you don’t have to open up the file itself. Another advantage is that, if you have several files dealing with the same sort of thing in the same folder, then a scan of the file titles actually tells you a history of what’s been going on. For example, if you digitise your health-related documents, then you can get a good idea of your history of illnesses and operations by just scanning the file titles. In summary, file titles can constitute a mini-database of easily viewable information; we should make use of this capability whenever possible.

The information in file titles is a sort of metadata – but rather limited in its quantity and type. In contrast, operating systems hold much more metadata about each file – and some of that metadata can be specified by the user. For example, for music files under the Windows operating system, the details tab of the file properties includes artist, album, title, genre, and date fields which can all be adjusted by the user. Similarly, the metadata contained in digital photo file properties is extensive. However, sometimes the metadata you want to hold will not be catered for by the operating system, and in these cases the answer is to establish your own index and to link the entry in the index with the digital object by using a unique reference number/code. The number/code will be allocated in the index first and then included in the file title – elements of a typical file title structure are shown below:

  • a unique identifier
  • a description of the contents
  • the earliest date associated with object concerned.

Then, any amount of additional metadata about each object can be held in the index. For example, in a memento index you can include some key words (facets), how you digitised each item, and where the physical items are stored.

Specialised databases can be used to create indexes; however, these are to be avoided where possible as they lock you into specific software suppliers and, inevitably, regular (expensive) upgrades. Usually, standard spreadsheet software such as Microsoft Excel will provide sufficient functionality for an OFC collection index.

When a unique identifier from an index is included in the file title of a digital object, the same unique identifier must also be attached to the associated physical object if it has been retained. For boxes, suitcases and similar containers, I use white strung tags which are cheaply available from stationery shops. For work-type documents, I used to write on the top right corner in blue felt tip pen. However, I decided that I wouldn’t want to permanently disfigure mementos in this way, so I have been using removable post-it note index tabs for these – though it is not a perfect solution because they do come off by mistake occasionally leaving an unidentified item. All these solutions are illustrated in the picture below.

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U5.4.1 Digitise – Technology requirements

The main digitisation techniques for OFC projects are scanning and photography regardless if you do it yourself or use a service. In addition, a large variety of other digital technologies may be useful in the course of an OFC project. Each of these aspects is discussed below.

Mainstream digitisation technologies

The main technologies you will need to undertake OFC projects are a scanner, a camera, and a computer system.

Scanning: For scanning, a flatbed is usually necessary as not all documents will be able to go through a sheet feeder. Of course, a scanner with both a flatbed and a sheet feeder provides the best of both worlds. Most scanners are capable of handling up to A4 size paper and this is usually adequate. However, A3 scanners are available if you have a lot of larger sized items to deal with – but they are more expensive and bigger to house. If you only have a few larger sized items, you may find it expedient to simply photograph them rather than buying an A3 scanner. When scanning documents, 300 dpi (dots per inch) is usually a sufficient resolution setting, and the scans are probably best output in PDF format. For images such as photographs, it is worth increasing the resolution to 600 dpi, and the scans can be output in JPG format. Documents that are purely black and white are best scanned in black and white; but all other documents and all images are probably best scanned in colour.

Photography: For photographing items, a modern camera, including those on more recent mobile phones, will provide very acceptable images of both objects and of large documents which are too big to scan. They are also useful for digitising groups of objects, such as birthday cards, which you may not want to go to the trouble of scanning each one. Cameras of around 10 megapixels and above will produce document images which can be enlarged sufficiently to view detail and read text. However, two other factors need to be taken into account to ensure a useful image. First, the photos need to be taken in a place where reflections and glare do not appear on the images; and, second, for documents and other flat objects, the camera needs to be held in exactly the same horizontal and vertical planes as the item being photographed, otherwise the image will appear shorter on one side than the other. A tripod can help to avoid this latter problem – but the camera still has to be positioned correctly on the tripod in the first place.

Computing: A computer system (i.e. a computer, keyboard and screen) will be required to store, manipulate and view the digital objects. Most modern systems with, for example, an i3 processor or above and a 500Gb+ disk, have sufficient power and storage to be able to handle the digital objects emerging from standard OFC projects. However, anything out of the ordinary such as very high volumes of items, very large file sizes, or applications with complex manipulation functions (video editors, for example)  may need a system with a slightly higher specification. Desktop systems are fine, but laptop systems take up less space and are certainly more portable. Tablet computers probably don’t currently have the functionality needed to act as the master OFC system, though this may change in the future (however, they are excellent secondary vehicles for providing easy, quick and convenient access to the digitised objects). Most modern computer systems include the basic software to display and manipulate images, to play music and videos, and even to rip (i.e. digitise) CDs. However, you may need to obtain word processing software to manipulate PDFs, and spreadsheet software if you are intending to create indexes.

Digitisation Services

You may have some items for which you are simply not equipped to digitise. For example, old reel-to-reel tape, cine film, 35mm slides, negatives, or VHF videos. For such requirements, a wide variety of services are available and advertising on the net. As always, you should check for reviews to try and ensure that the price is reasonable and that the quality of service is good. It may be best to use a local service, if one is available, so that any issues which might arise can be resolved face to face. Similar services also exist for scanning documents (which may be useful if you have very large volumes), and for more esoteric requirements such as 3D photography of objects. It’s really just a matter of weighing up the time and money you will have to spend doing something yourself, against the cost of having someone else do it for you – possibly to a higher standard.

Other useful technologies

A variety of other technologies may be useful in OFC projects including the following:

  • Recording: the ability to record someone talking about an object, or to record the sounds at an event or location, is easily acquired by downloading an app onto a modern mobile phone. The app will be either free or low cost, and the output will probably be of good quality and in MP3 or M4A format.
  • USB turntable: If you want to digitise a 78, 45 or LP record, a USB turntable will send its output in digital form to a cable which can be plugged into the USB port of a computer. Tape cassettes can also be digitised either by feeding the output from a cassette player’s headphone socket into the turntable, or directly if the turntable unit includes a cassette player as well. The digital sounds can then be edited using sound and music editing software (see below).
  • Sound and music digitising and editing software: This software allows digital sounds to be edited and output in a variety of formats. A very well known and widely respected application of this type is the free, open source, cross platform, package called Audacity which can be downloaded from the Audacity web site.
  • Movies: most modern cameras and mobile phones have excellent movie-making capabilities.
  • Video editing software: You may need such software to edit a video that you have, or to combine two or more videos. Some computer systems include video editing software, however, if yours doesn’t, there are plenty of free or low priced software packages available.
  • RFID: Radio-frequency identification (RFID) uses electromagnetic fields to automatically identify and track tags attached to objects. The tags contain electronically stored information. Passive tags collect energy from a nearby RFID reader’s interrogating radio waves. Active tags have a local power source (such as a battery) and may operate hundreds of meters from the RFID reader. Unlike a barcode, the tag need not be within the line of sight of the reader, so it may be embedded in the tracked object. The cheaper RFID systems can be acquired for a few hundred pounds – but prices are continuing to fall.

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U5.4 How to do it – Digitise – Introduction

There are three main aspects to consider in the digitisation activity: first, there is obviously a requirement for some technology to perform the digitisation with; second, consideration must be given to the information that the resulting digital objects are labelled with or that is stored about them; and, third, a decision has to be made after each item has been digitised as to whether to retain it or to discard it. These topics are discussed in the following units:

U5.4.1  Digitise – Technology requirements
U5.4.2  Digitise – Titles, metadata and indexes
U5.4.3  Digitise – Choosing to retain or discard

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U5.3 How to do it – Sort & organise

This is when you start to actually get to grips with the objects, and the things and places they are stored in.

An initial look

You might first investigate the items a little further to get a better feel of what there is, without actually doing any sorting. This can be an exciting time of discovery if you are not familiar with the material you’re dealing with. While you’re doing this, you should also be keeping an eye out for where the sorted material will eventually be stored, and be thinking about what containers and storage arrangements will work best. As you subsequently start to sort through the objects, you’ll be able to build upon this germ of a storage plan in your mind, and your storage ideas may actually affect some of your sorting decisions.

General Approach

The general approach to sorting & organising is summed up in the following extract from the two-pager on ‘Practical approaches to Order from Chaos”:

“A very useful technique for this is to do a quick sort through of everything, placing different sub-categories of things into different piles, and, at the same time, setting aside anything that needs throwing away or that you know definitely that you don’t want to keep. If the sub-categories aren’t obvious when you start, that’s no problem – they’ll soon start to emerge as you continue to sort through the material. After this initial sort it will be clearer what different types of things you have and what different types of storage you’ll need for different sub-categories. For example, if your boxes contain lots of documents and various artefacts, then one approach would be to put the documents into display folders and the objects into a wall display cabinet (IKEA has a good selection of these as well). Having done the initial sort through, you can then tackle each sub-category pile and do a more detailed sort, perhaps putting like with like or sorting things by date – or whatever’s appropriate. Things can be put into their storage locations/containers as you go through this process or after you’ve dealt with each sub-category pile. As you may have gathered already, this whole process is designed to gradually turn a disordered set of material into more coherent organised  groups of things. The further you get through this exercise, the less daunting the task becomes as Order starts to appear from Chaos. Right from the beginning of the quick sort, you will, little by little, have a better handle on what you have and what you need to do with it.”

Of course different types of objects may require special ways of sorting them: approaches for photos, and documents, are outlined below:

  • Photos: Identify a sort criteria (examples could include people, dates, or places), and go through all the material placing individual items into piles according to the criteria you have selected. Once you have done an initial sort, go through each subset checking the allocation is correct and getting the order correct within each subset. For prints, their physical appearance and whatever numbers or information has been recorded on them (front or back), can be used to identify which prints were produced at the same time. The same approach can be used to match up different strips of negatives that came from the same film. At this stage negatives can also be matched to the prints. If you are not familiar with the contents of the photos (if, say, they belong to parents or relatives, or are a job lot purchased at an auction), use whatever means are available to identify what they are of and when they were taken. If there is someone available who is familiar with them, talk with them about each photo. Note the contents and date on the back of each photo. Alternatively, note an interim serial number on the back each photo and record the information about it in a notebook or computer.
  • Documents: The obvious way to sort documents is by topic and then by date within each topic. However, other categorisations may present themselves. For example, payslips are substantially different from A4 letters; and theatre programmes are substantially different from bank statements. Such distinctions will become obvious as you start sorting. A more general approach is advised by Marie Kendo in her book ‘The life-changing magic of tidying’: she advocates saving documents in three categories – needs attention, should be saved (contractual documents), should be saved (others). Another angle that is worth considering is the uses to which the documents will be put: it is usually better to keep documents together that are going to be looked at together.

Excluding Items

A key part of the sorting and organising process is deciding what to eliminate completely from the collection i.e. what to dispose of or throw away. Indeed, sometimes the desire to get rid of a lot of stuff is the main reason people embark on an OFC project. Some people like Marie Kendo, and Liz Davenport advocate retaining a minimum amount of stuff. However, in the end, it is entirely up to the collection owner to decide what is kept and what is disposed of; though it will probably be useful to have some kind of rationale for doing so and to apply that rationale consistently. An example of such a rationale in the form of a list of reasons for keeping mementos is shown below:

  • So as not to forget
  • To be reminded of
  • For reference
  • Because it makes me feel a sense of pride
  • To pass on and be added to the family history
  • Because it’s too special to get rid of
  • Because it’s very unusual

For collections which are to be used not only by the owner, but also by family and friends, and perhaps by future generations, then different rationale may apply to different groups. For this level of detail it is advisable to create a table of some sort such as this Wish Table Template.


If you are planning on using an index for the collection, you may wish to set it up at this stage so that items can be entered into it when they are organised/digitised (‘digitised’ is included here because you may decide it is easier to digitise each item as you organise each one in turn). This will enable the items to be labelled with the unique number allocated by the index, as each one completes the sorting/organisation process.

Storage Planning

Another thing that should be done in the course of sorting and organising is to think some more about storage possibilities. As you deal with each item, you will start to get a feel for the size and type of containers you might need, which locations they might go into, and how the overall space might be utilised.


If you are enlisting someone else’s help to identify things in the sort process (as, for example, in the case of old family photos when you might ask advice from an older relative), it may be worthwhile making a recording of what the other person says about particular items. This will not only help downstream organisation / indexing; but it can also provide a valuable addition to the content of the collection. Recording a conversation can be easily done using a mobile phone for which many cheap or free recording apps are widely available.

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U5.2 How to do it – Plan

OFC projects tend to be informal, personal activities, for which a detailed plan is not really necessary. However, when setting out to do anything, its always worth having some idea of how you are going to do it. The following points might help you to flesh out those ideas:

  • What’s the end state? Having an idea – even a vague idea – of what you’d like to finish up with at the end of the project may help you get there.
  • Do you have the equipment? Are you going to use a scanner and/or a camera for digitisation? Do you have a computer? You will need to have such equipment in place when you start the project.
  • Check the net: If you’re unsure about what equipment is available, what it’s possible to achieve, or how to do things, always remember that it’s worth checking the internet for answers.
  • Do you intend to have an index? It’s worth deciding on this right at the beginning of the project because, if you have an index, it will be central to your activities. It’s certainly not essential, but if you’re thinking about having one, this Photo Index Template or this Memento Index Template may provide useful starting points.
  • Check U4.4: Don’t forget to keep in mind the general points outlined in Unit 4.4.
  • Write down the plan: No matter how vague your plan is, it’s worth writing it down. This will help you to clarify your thinking about what you’re going to do; and it will always be there to revisit if you want a reminder, or if you want to revise your plans.

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U5.1 How to do it – Define what & why

Defining ‘what and why’ might be thought of in the general sense of identifying broadly what you want to do, for example, sorting out your photos. However, in the context of an OFC project, it specifically refers to being clear about what particular objects you are going to work on and why you are interested in this material. The following first paragraph of the two-pager on ‘Practical approaches to Order from Chaos’ provides a good description of what is entailed by the ‘why’ part of this activity:

“I guess the very first thing to ask when faced with a stack of stuff is ‘what’s it for’ – ‘why do you want it’. Take someone’s large collection of books, for example, does the owner collect certain types of books? Are some of more interest to her than others? Given a moment to reflect, would she decide that one part of her collection is of more interest to her than another? Perhaps, she’s been thinking for some time about focusing on just a subset of types of books or authors or topics, and this is an opportunity to make that change of direction. Sometimes it’s helpful to have a prompt which encourages one to review what one’s doing. Take another example – a large pile of boxes – the same applies. Do you really want this material? What are you going to do with it? Stuff sitting unused in boxes is just a waste of space. If it IS of use to you, you could start thinking of how you can use it – how you can bring it life! That in turn may help you towards a greater understanding of why you want to keep it. Of course, there may be several different categories of material, for each of which the answer may be different. Understanding what those different categories are is also an essential part of figuring out why you want to keep things. Writing down what those categories are and why you are keeping items in each category will probably be helpful.”

In trying to understand the ‘why’ part of ‘Define what & why’, it may also be helpful to re-read the section on ‘Why do we keep things?’.

Once you have a clear idea of why you are going to work on a collection of objects, it is important to be very specific about which objects are going to be sorted. This can be done by specifying the objects in a particular location or area; or by date; or who they belong to; or even by saying all instances anywhere in the house. The key is to know where you are looking for the items so that they can all be assembled together, either physically or notionally, and sorted from one single group.

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U5.0 How to do it – Introduction

This section considers each of the activities highlighted in the OFC model [U4.2], and provides practical guidance on how to perform them. The activities are:

5.1  Define what & why
5.2  Plan
5.3  Sort & organise
5.4  Digitise
5.5  Store
5.6  Use
5.7  Exploit
5.8  Maintain

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U4.4 Points to bear in mind

When you undertake an OFC project you may find it useful to keep the following points in mind:

Break big pieces of work into small steps: Having to deal with large numbers of items (like a lifetime’s collection of photos, for example), or some other large scale task, can seem like an insurmountable mountain to climb. To overcome that feeling, decide how much you can easily do in a day or a week, and then just make sure you do that amount regularly as a minimum. It may take a long time to complete, but at least you can be confident that the work is doable and will get done.

Be prepared to refine as you go:  Having some sort of plan before you start is important; but it’s unlikely to cover all eventualities and opportunities that you might encounter on the way. So, use the plan as a way of getting started, and have no qualms about adjusting it during the journey.

Consider Exploiting as you Digitise: If you have plans to exploit a collection, it can be worth doing so while you are dealing with the files while performing digitisation or storage activities. Sometimes it will be too much of a distraction, but it’s worth considering.

Optimise the hybrid: The challenge in optimising the hybrid is a matter of deciding which of the physical items to retain after digitisation. Once thrown away, the unique properties of the physical will be lost, so some thought should be given as to what unique qualities (if any) are particularly important or interesting for the particular items you are dealing with. There may be none, of course, in which case none of the physical items need to be retained; but, if there are any, then you will be better able to select a representative sample to retain, in order to enable users of the collection to get a sense of their physical qualities.

Lean more towards completion than perfection: Spending time achieving perfection inevitably limits how much you can get done; and often the perfection being striven for is just not needed. Perfection is required in tasks like restoring paintings; but OFC projects are rather looser and more discretionary than that. Of course, only the individual starting an OFC project can make the judgement as to what quality of work is required; however, in my experience of such projects, greater satisfaction is experienced, and more results are achieved, by placing more emphasis on completing the work than on achieving perfect results.

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U4.3 Examples of OFC projects

Below are some examples of OFC projects that have been fully documented within this web site:

A. Letters: Around 1900 letters and cards were scanned and a subset retained in physical form.
B. Mementos: Around 1500 mementos were digitised, of which about 350 were retained in physical form. The work mementos were made into a 72 page book produced by the Snapfish service.
C. Books: Around 180 paperback and hardback books were digitised by cutting them from their spines and putting them through a scanner sheet feeder. The digitised books were transferred into an iPad where they were displayed in the Sidebooks app.
D. T-Shirts: Ten T-shirts with logos and pictures of relevance to the owner, were photographed in various settings. The photos were used to make a climate change collage. The logos and pictures were cut-out of the T-Shirts and assembled together in a frame.
E. Music: a complete collection of music and recorded conversation originating in various formats, was digitised and transferred to an iPhone. An Amazon Echo ‘Alexa’ product was installed and a subscription taken out to Amazon music. All the albums with their covers and contents, and an indication if they were available via Alexa, were printed out and hand-bound into a hardcopy book.
F. Photos: Over 18,000 family photos spanning 130 years were digitised, given meaningful file titles, and indexed. The hardcopy photos were placed into albums.
G. Posters: About 80 posters and paintings were photographed. Some of the posters were stored in the back of a large frame so that they could be displayed in rotation. The first display in the frame was a collage of journal covers with a surround made up of thumbnails of all the posters and paintings.
H. Household Files: Over 9,000 household documents, both hardcopy and in emails, were sorted and reorganised. Some paper items were digitised.
I. Loft contents: The contents of the loft were sorted and many items discarded. The remainder were photographed, allocated a unique number, and placed in a numbered position in the loft. All this information was recorded in a database, so that the contents of the loft could be viewed without actually going up there.

Each of the above projects is described in more detail below using the activities defined in the model in unit 4.2.

A. Letter Keeping

Define what & why: Entire collection of most letters received over a 50 year period. Saved for reference and sentimental reasons.
Plan: Sort in date order by sender. Scan and keep only a subset in physical form.
Sort & organise: 1900 letters and cards from 145 people were sorted over a 10 week period.
Digitise: All letters from a single person/couple were scanned together into a single PDF file  – or into several PDFs if there were a lot. File titles of the following form were specified: date range, Name of sender, type of relationship or key information contained.  This structure enables single letters to be filed as they arrive.
Store: An overall ‘People’ folder was created containing a single folder for each correspondent into which the individual files were placed. Physical letters that were retained were stored in display folders in alphabetical correspondent order, which were placed in a cupboard.
Use: The letters are accessed for reference and to refresh memories.
Exploit: A subset of the letters were downloaded to the Sidebooks iPad app via Dropbox, where they now reside in a Letters folder.
Maintain: The People folder is backed up to a cloud service, and also periodically backed up to an external hard disk. A Digital Preservation project will be undertaken on the collection in the future in order to produce a Digital Preservation Maintenance Plan.

B. Memento Management

Define what & why: Contents of 30+ folders in which sundry documents were placed and stored in boxes in the loft. Saved for reference and interest.
Plan: Discard uninteresting items. Log the rest in an index and digitise them. Keep the physical version of a subset of the items.
Sort & organise: Separated into two groups – work-related & pre-marriage mementos;  and post-marriage mementos – then worked on each group in turn. Discarded unwanted items and put the remainder in date order. In the work-related & pre-marriage group, 734 items were sorted of which 300 were discarded. In the post-marriage group, 575 items remained after unwanted items were discarded.
Digitise: Two Indexes with the same structure were created in Excel spreadsheets – one for each group. An entry was created in one or other of the Indexes for each item in turn, after which it was either scanned to PDF, or, if it was too big for the scanner, photographed to JPG.  The files were given titles containing the unique number allocated in the index followed by a short description then the date of publication of the item.
Store: Each group of memento files were stored in a separate single level folder. 133 work items and 220 post-marriage items were retained in physical form and stored in display folders which were placed in a cupboard.
Use: The mementos are accessed for reference and to enjoy with family and friends
Exploit: A 72 page,  8x11in, book was produced of various work mementos including offer letters, leaving cards, example payslips, major achievements, and retirement messages. The book was created in the Snapfish web site and printed and delivered by Snapfish in about a week at a cost of just under £40. A subset of all the mementos were downloaded to the Sidebooks iPad app via Dropbox, where they now reside in various folders.
Maintain: The memento folders are backed up to a cloud service, and also periodically backed up to an external hard disk. The work-related & pre-marriage memento collection was subjected to a Digital Preservation exercise in which some files were converted to PDF/A-1b format, and a Preservation Maintenance Plan was produced. A similar exercise will be performed on the post-marriage group in the future in order to produce a Digital Preservation Maintenance Plan.

C. Electronic Bookshelf

Define what & why: Personal collections of paperbacks, university books, and technical work-related books. Saved for reference and because they represent my professional position and capabilities.
Plan: Photograph the books on their shelves and produce posters from the photos. Scan the books. Attempt to find a system whereby you can select a book on the posters and have the text appear on screen.
Sort & organise: All books containing a contribution from the owner, and a few other special books, were separated out and retained in their physical form. Each of the three sets of books – paperbacks, university, technical work – were arranged in appropriate order on their shelves.
Digitise: Each set of books was photographed on their shelves. The books were then cut from their spines and scanned through the sheet feeder. The covers were scanned separately, and those too big for the scanner (including dust jackets) were photographed. The text and the jackets were brought together in a single PDF into which named bookmarks were placed at the start of every chapter. 111 paperbacks were dealt with over a 7 week period; and then, after having gained the experience with the paperbacks, the 75 hardbacks were dealt with over a 10 day period. All hardcopy pages were thrown away apart from the covers and the publisher pages which were retained to prove ownership in case copyright issues arise. No economically viable system was found to automate the link between selecting a book on a poster and opening the book on the laptop.
Store: The digital files were placed in one single level folder in the laptop. The physical dust jackets and publisher pages were stored in the loft in an old portable computer bag.
Use: The digital books are accessed for reference or to re-read.
Exploit: Four sizes of posters were printed using the Snapfish service from the photos of the books on shelves – 40x30cm (full size), 30x20cm, 18x12cm,  and 15x10cm. These were placed on various walls in the study to see which size worked best. Eventually the second biggest size was selected and was placed in a frame and hung on the wall in front of the study desk. The third biggest size was placed on white paper and put underneath the plastic transparent desk mat on which my mouse and keyboard sit; and the smallest size was put into a 20x16in frame and given to my son and his wife for the library area in their new home. All the digitised books were also shipped to an iPad app called Sidebooks via Dropbox; and were stored there in one of three sections – Paperbacks, University Books, and Work Books.
Maintain: The Books folder is backed up to a cloud service, and also periodically backed up to an external hard disk. A Digital Preservation project will be undertaken on the collection in the future in order to produce a Digital Preservation Maintenance Plan.

D. T-Shirt Transmigration

Define what & why: Collection of 11 T-shirts with logos, pictures or words on them. Saved because they were reminders of past events, activities, organisations, or people.
Plan: Photograph the T-shirts in four ways – as images in their own right; as evidence that I was somewhere or was doing something; as reminders of the purpose they were created for; and as illustrations of the feelings I had for the purpose they were created for. Create a collage about climate change from the photos and the T-Shirts. Create a collage of the logos, pictures or words that have been cut out from the T-Shirts.
Sort & organise: No sorting was required – all 10 of the different T-Shirts were used and the one duplicate was discarded.
Digitise: Each T-Shirt was photographed in the four ways envisaged – as images just laying on the floor; with me wearing them indicating evidence of my involvement with them in some way; with various related artefacts on and around them to act as reminders of what was associated with the T-Shirts, and hung on a frame with a cardboard cutout head painted in a way that represents the feelings I have about whatever is represented by each T-Shirt. The individual logos, pictures or words were then cut out from the T-Shirts and photographed in their own right.
Store: All the T-Shirt pictures were stored in the T-Shirt Transmigration folder in the laptop. The physical logos, pictures or words cut out from the T-Shirts are stored as a collage in the large picture frame used for rotating pictures and posters (see Exploit)
Use: The collage of physical logos, pictures or words cut out from the T-Shirts is used to refresh memories of the event or person represented (see Exploit).
Exploit: The individual logos, pictures or words cut from the T-Shirts were assembled together in a large collage. The four sets of photos were used to construct a collage about climate change.
Maintain: The T-Shirt Transmigration folder is backed up to a cloud service, and also periodically backed up to an external hard disk. A Digital Preservation project will be undertaken on the collection in the future in order to produce a Digital Preservation Maintenance Plan.

E. Music Management

Define what & why: Entire collection of music, recorded conversations, and spoken word publications on tapes, LPs, 45s, CDs and MP3s. Saved for the pleasure of listening to or because they record a unique moment in time.
Plan: Digitise all items and obtain a digital cover for each album.
Sort & organise: The first tranche of work was undertaken in 2008. LPs that were not replaced with CDs were set aside for digitisation. All reel-to-reel and cassette tapes, 45s, and CDs in the study, were also assembled in separate groups. Some particular LPs, and all singles, were also selected from parents collection. The second tranche of work in which all the remaining household CDs were assembled and sorted into alphabetical artist order, was undertaken in 2017.
Digitise: In the first tranche of work, reel to reel tapes were digitised, for a fee, by an ex-BBC sound engineer who was a friend of a friend. LPs and 45s were digitised using a Numark TTUSB turntable and the Audacity software. Cassette tapes were digitised in the same way by playing them on an old ghetto blaster cassette player plugged into the Numark turntable. A single file was created for each track, amounting to about 4,500 files. Cover art for each album was either downloaded from the net, or acquired locally by photographing an existing cover or by creating a cover in Powerpoint. The second tranche of digitising about 80 CDs took place in 2017 using the Windows media player RIP feature. For each of these items the ‘Details’ tab of the file properties was ensured to be filled in correctly with Track Title, Artist Name, Supporting Artists, Album Name, Year, and Genre; and cover art was downloaded from the net or scanned from the CD covers.
Store: The track files for both tranches of work were stored in the My Music section of the Windows laptop in folders for each artist containing sub-folders for each album. There are about 135 artist folders, some 280 album folders, and approximately 5,600 tracks taking up about 22Gb. The physical tapes, LPs, Singles, and CDs are stored in the loft to prove ownership in case copyright issues arise.
Use: The music was played as required through the laptop and also through the house TV via a Wi-Fi connection.
Exploit: Much of the collection was originally stored in an Apple iPod and played on a shuffle basis. More recently it was stored on an iPhone and played as and when required. In 2017, the cover art for every album, together with the track listing underneath, was included in a word-processed document. The document also included albums we used to a have but haven’t any more; and also items picked out from listening to samples in Amazon of albums that appeared in a regular newspaper review. In the document, each album is colour coded to indicate whether it can be played from Amazon’s music library (to which we subscribe) via Amazon’s Echo (Alexa) product; or whether it has to be played through Alexa from the iPhone. The book was printed and hand bound as a hardcopy book; and a cover was created in Powerpoint and reproduced by printing on an extended length of wallpaper lining paper.
Maintain: The My Music folder is backed up to a cloud service, and also periodically backed up to an external hard disk. A Digital Preservation project will be undertaken on the collection in the future in order to produce a Digital Preservation Maintenance Plan.

F. Organising Family Photos

Define what & why: Four entire collections of photos, slides, cine film and video have been dealt with using the same approach: husband’s pre-marriage photos; wife’s pre-marriage photos; couple’s post-marriage photos; and husband’s parent’s photos. Saved for reference and sentiment, and to pass on down the family.
Plan: Create a single digital index for all the photos, including new additions. Deal with the collections in the following order: husband’s pre-marriage; couple’s post-marriage; wife’s pre-marriage; and husband’s parents. Digitise all photos and store all physical photos in physical albums.
Sort & organise: Sorting was undertaken at the following times: husband’s pre-marriage material started in 1978 and was completed in approximately 1994; couple’s post-marriage material started in about 1995 and was completed around 2011; wife’s pre-marriage material was undertaken in 2011; and husband’s parents material started in 2012 and was completed in 2016 (some audio recordings were also made of the mother talking about the photos in the course of them being sorted). Physical photos for each collection were sorted into sets (ie. photographed on a single roll of film) and the sets were sorted by date.
Digitise: A digital Index of the sets of photos (not each photo within a set) was created in Microsoft Excel. Each set was allocated a unique number in the Index and this number was used to generate a unique number for each digital photo. For example, in the set numbered 1347 containing 20 photos, the first photo was numbered 1347-01, the second 1347-02, the third 1347-03, and the twentieth 1347-20. Audio recordings of the mother talking about some of the photos were made using the ClearRecord Lite app on the iPhone. Physical photos and slides were initially scanned to TIFF using an HP 5690 scanner using HP scanning software but this was found to produce file sizes which were too large. They were subsequently scanned to JPG at 600dpi. The scanner was replaced by a Canon DR-2020U during the period when the husband’s parents material was being scanned. Cine film and VHF-Video was first converted to DVDs using a specialist service; and then converted to MP4 using Windows MovieMaker and DVDVideosoft’s Freestudio software. Each file produced from all these digitisation processes was given a title in the following format: Unique Number – description of content – earliest date of photos in the set.
Store: All still photos are stored in the My Pictures folder within a folder for the relevant set, on the Windows laptop (there are currently about 18,000 still images in the collection taking up about 50Gb). All moving image files are stored directly in the My Videos folder on the Windows laptop (there are currently about 90 moving picture files taking up about 13Gb). All physical photos are stored in 2 slot 6×4 slip-in albums (larger photos are made to fit in the albums by slitting the top of the bottom slip-in slot). A slip-in tab provides the file title for both photos on each page. All negatives, duplicate physical photos, and original slides, cine films and VHF videos, are stored in a case in the loft.
Use: Physical albums are used to look up particular people, events or places. The Windows search facility is used to search the digital file titles when looking for particular photos or types of photos.
Exploit: Two photos have been printed out as canvas prints for the walls in one of the bedrooms. Two others have been printed out as posters and placed in frames in the conservatory. All images in the My Pictures folder are displayed on a revolving basis on the laptop desktop via the Windows Slideshow Desktop Gadget.
Maintain: The My Pictures and the My Videos folders are backed up to a cloud service, and also periodically backed up to an external hard disk. A copy is also held on the other laptop in the house. The photos collection was subjected to a Digital Preservation exercise in which some files were converted to PDF/A-1b format, and a Preservation Maintenance Plan was produced.

G. Poster Management

Define what & why: All the posters, paintings and drawings in the house, some of them stored away and others on the walls. Saved because they are good to look at, or for sentimental reasons.
Plan: Digitise them all by photographing them. Include the digital files in the photos index. Create a revolving display of the posters in a large frame.
Sort & organise: About 80 items were assembled in the course of the sorting exercise.
Digitise: Each item was photographed over a two week period, included in the Photos Index, and given the standard photos file title: Unique Number – Description of Content – Earliest Date.
Store: The digital files were stored with the photo collection in the My Pictures folder. Some of the larger physical posters were stored at the back of the picture frame that was purchased to facilitate a revolving display of posters. The remaining physical items were either hanging on the walls, or stored in the loft.
Use: The digital versions are not accessed on a regular basis, but will be available should it ever be necessary to make an insurance claim. The pictures that are hung on the walls are viewed and enjoyed on a daily basis The physical folders that are stored in the back of the picture frame may be displayed from time to time as the posters are rotated through the frame.
Exploit: The Windows Screen Background facility and the Windows Screensaver facility have both been set up to revolve through all these digital items, so one or other of these pictures is usually viewed by the laptop user each day. The purchase of a frame to enable posters to be revolved through it, prompted the creation of a collage of covers from the ACM Interactions magazine (addressing Human-Computer Interaction topics) which had long been intended.  The collage was the first occupant of the frame.  Thumbnails of all the photos of the posters, paintings and drawings were printed out and used as a surround to this collage.
Maintain: The My Pictures folder is backed up to a cloud service, and also periodically backed up to an external hard disk. A copy is also held on the other laptop in the house. The photos collection was subjected to a Digital Preservation exercise in which some files were converted to PDF/A-1b format, and a Preservation Maintenance Plan was produced.

H. Household File Management

Define what & why: All items to do with running the household, including both physical and digital items. Saved to enable the efficient operation of the household.
Plan: Go through all the items, digitising and discarding as necessary.
Sort & organise: 9,800  documents residing in 113 files in 15 separate locations (71% were in email folders) were sorted over a 6 week period. 1980 documents were discarded (some of these will have been discarded after digitising them.
Digitise: Most documents were scanned to PDF  and given file titles in the format: Date – Substantive Information. Other documents such as instruction manuals and recipes were not digitised.
Store: Household digital files are stored in various folders on the laptop. Most of the physical files are stored in a chest. Others physical items are stored in the kitchen, study and shed.
Use: Accessed in the course of conducting household business.
Exploit: No exploitation as yet.
Maintain: The household folders are backed up to a cloud service, and also periodically backed up to an external hard disk. A Digital Preservation project will be undertaken on the collection in the future in order to produce a Digital Preservation Maintenance Plan.

I. Loft Management

Define what & why: All the contents of the loft. Saved for a variety of reasons including possible future use and sentiment.
Plan: Obtain an RFID system and place an RFID tag on each item. Create a database of all the items in the loft and synchronise it with the RFID system.
Sort & organise: The loft was first sorted in 2004 during which many items were discarded and about 250 items were retained. About a further 90 items were added over the following 11 years. Several more items were discarded in the move to a new house in 2015. In 2016, a new loft system was initiated with about 95 items. In the Specification document for both the old system and the new system, Containers and Loft Positions were also defined and given unique numbers.
Digitise: In 2004, no RFID system that was cheap enough could be found, so a filemaker database was set up to allocate a unique number to each item and to record a photo and a description of each item. Changes and additions to the contents of the loft were managed in this database. In 2016, when a loft system was being established in a new house, the UGrokIT system was found to be almost, but not quite cheap enough. However, the UgrokIT iPhone app was free, so it was adopted to replace the Filemaker database in lieu of the UGrokIT RFID reader coming down in price.
Store:  All items, containers, and positions are now documented in the UgrokIT database along with their photograph (taken on the iPhone from within the UGrokIT app). The physical items, containers, and positions all reside in the loft.
Use: The loft database is referred to when a) trying to find out what is in the loft; b) when trying to find if a particular item is in the loft; and c) when trying to add, change or remove an item to/from the loft. The loft itself is accessed when wanting to access an item in the loft or when placing new items in the loft.
Exploit: In the original loft system in the previous house, the database entries, including photos and descriptions, for all items were printed out, 8 to a page, and assembled in a display booklet for the family to use.
Maintain: A copy of the UGrokIT database is maintained in the UGrokIT cloud. The iPhone version of the database is backed up periodically in iTunes. A Digital Preservation project will be undertaken on the collection in the future in order to produce a Digital Preservation Maintenance Plan.

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