Creating a digital catalogue for a small collection

I am creating a digital catalogue for Rudolf Geyer’s heritage. On this, I have a long read (and long look) for a lazy summer day over at Medium.

About it, too, I have here a short description of the technical aspects of the first phase. My plan is to make an online catalogue of the collection of about 1500 titles, as a way to familiarize myself with the technology and problems inherent to such work. I planned a first phase on site, to work with the materials with my own hands and my own eyes. As I had half of the collection to be done, and only four days, my strategy was to pick up every book, make a photo of the call number and a photo of the title page. I made well over 2,000 photographs as I also photographed anything unusual. I made these photos using my iPhone in combination with the app Evernote. This is a database system that automatically syncs to the internet and to your other devices. After a week it is still struggling to get everything uploaded. Once I have it sorted out I will have a rudimentary database with every book in a separate note. Every photo taken in Evernote is also saved in your Photos app so with that I was able to quickly put it on my laptop. I only had to connect and the Photos app on my Macbook opened up, allowing me to select and download the images. Of course now I had the pictures double on my phone; both in Evernote and in Photos. Since everything is sandboxed that means the photos are physically stored twice on my phone, which I thought was unnecessary. Surprisingly, deleting 2,000 photos from Photos is an incomprehensible task for iOS. I tried it several times and it failed. I also tried to do it for each day, basically in batches of 400-800, but that too resulted in nothing. The iPhone simply remained unresponsive and did not delete anything. I ended up deleting them in a hundred batches of 20 photos. The work that lies before is still significant, of course. I have yet to decide on the final product to use for the online catalogue, and that decision will obviously also influence the road towards the final result. But I anticipate that this will go in stages. Right now I am contemplating a middle stage using FileMaker, a more powerful database application than Evernote, with which I hope to make a fun workflow of identifying the call numbers and the metadata. What I wish to do is to make a workflow that I can do even for a few minutes, for examples while waiting for a train, almost as a game. From FileMaker I can make an iPhone app, which, I imagine, will present me with a new photo of a call number and a simple keyboard to type it out. For every entry typed out I will get a score and I can see daily scores to keep me hyped to work on it. For the correct metadata I hope to pull comparable data from Worldcat or a specific library catalogue such as the Staatsbibliothek in Berlin. For example, I might add a phase in which I do pretty much the same as the above but with book titles. Then, I will have to go through the entire collection again, in game form, with the app providing me each time with a photo of a title page and three possibilities from WorldCat (based on the previously typed out book title) and I can select which comes closest. After selection, FileMaker will store all the different metadata in different fields. In a final phase of preparing the catalogue data, I will have to go through each entry by hand to see if it requires any  correction or additional comment. Fun stuff!

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