How We Catalogued 3,600 Things


By Caitlin Badowski, Collections Department

At the outset of this project, the Sidney N. Shure Collection was very nicely housed in high quality, archival three-ring binders, which we call albums. Each album represented a distinct subject area, and was preserved in the arrangement Mr. Shure had originally created. We knew approximately what objects we might find in any given album, but very little of that information was catalogued in our database. We would only have the opportunity to image 1,000 album pages during our Rapid Capture week, but I wanted to take this chance to digitize as much of the collection as possible.

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Cataloguing one of the many Shure albums.

At the National Postal Museum, we consider an object catalogued when it is in our database with its correct accession number and location, as well as a department listing, name and description. While there is a great deal more information about any given object we would like to include, we try to keep our minimum catalogue criteria relatively simple. The hard part of cataloguing collections objects is just getting them in the database at all - we can always add more information as needed.

Cataloguing a group as large as the Sidney N. Shure Collection was an ambitious undertaking for our staff. I was able to recruit some collection staff to help catalogue each album by filling out pre-defined Excel spreadsheets. Staff members could take albums to their desks for a day at a time to physically number the pages and enter catalogue data into the spreadsheets. When the spreadsheet for an album was complete, I used an importer tool to generate the new records in our database.

In this way, our fabulous departmental team was able to work together to create 3,600 records in just three months! With the actual imaging of the Sidney N. Shure Collection happening now, our staff cataloguing endeavor has slowed. There are still about 20 albums to catalogue, but I am certain we will finish the remaining albums by the end of the year. It is my hope that we will be able to complete the imaging the remainder of this collection, too. Keep checking our site for all the great new collections our digitization projects make available!

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Staff recorded information about each album page in a spreadsheet that was imported into the database.

A big thank you to Linda, Beth, Becca, Manda, Patricia and Meg for all your help cataloguing these albums!

Caitlin Badowski

About the Author
Caitlin Badowski: "I have enjoyed working at the Postal Museum since 2004, when I was brought on as a Preservation Intern. Since that time, I have served as the Assistant to the Director and the Accessions Officer. I am also a student in the Museum Studies masters program at The George Washington University. At the NPM, I help maintain the collections and official object files."