Tuesday, October 15, 2013

More on Organizing Your Collections

You’ve figured out a numbering system and assigned numbers to the items in your collection. The next step is to apply them to your objects. Whichever technique you used depends on the surface of the object. The labels must be removable in case you sell an item from the collection, but they must also be durable and long-lasting. Choose a place for the label on the bottom or back of objects, being careful not to obliterate any trademarks, serial numbers, patent dates, or maker's signatures. Use a thin pointed Sharpie marker to print the numbers on the labels. Removable labels work the best.

Paper items can be labeled with a soft pencil, never with ink or a rubber stamp. Apply the label in an inconspicuous place, preferably on the back, always keeping in mind that it may have to be removed. Place the label on a sturdy portion of the paper, not so close to the edge that the paper will tear if the number is erased.

For such textiles as rugs, quilts, samplers, wall hangings, and clothing, use small fabric labels numbered with a laundry pen or fine ballpoint pen. Always test the pen first on a piece of scrap label to make sure that the ink does not bleed or smear. Attach the label to the fabric with only one or two stitches at each corner so that the label can easily be removed without damaging the fabric. Although self-adhesive labels or iron-on tape may seem quick and easy, they are not recommended because they fall off in time. They sometimes permanently discolor the object or leave a residue that can damage it.

If you recorded your collection on cards or in a looseleaf notebook, you can break it down into individual classifications for filing purposes. You may wish to even break down those classifications further.  Some specialties may not require such complete listings, and some individual headings may need to be expanded. For example, if the specialty is Eastlake-inspired furniture, subheadings can be added in the furniture category to identify makers or types of furniture. In the case of bottles, for example, specify the type of glass, blown or molded, the color and shape, and the type of bottle—whiskey bottle, flask, bitters bottle, or house-hold bottle. The contents of your collection and your planned future acquisitions will determine the headings you choose.

Using a digital camera or camera-equipped smartphone, you may wish to add photos of the items in your collection to your listings or database. Photograph the items individually. If you’re working with small objects, consider buying or making a lightbox—a box with white paper on three sides and bottom—in which you can photograph them. Save the originals as is, but make copies of all the photos first and rename them using the catalog number you’ve assigned to that object.

Most growing collections represent substantial investments of time and effort as well as money. Besides its obvious uses for insurance claims, a carefully kept catalog is valuable to those who may buy or inherit your collection. Cataloging is also a way of becoming intimately acquainted with all the objects in your collection, identifying the collection's strengths and weaknesses, and  taking the time to enjoy it thoroughly.

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