Friday, 28 January 2011

Making sense of LHSA's photographic collections

This week, Stephen, our Archive Assistant tells us about the work he is currently doing to review part of LHSA's photographic collection.

LHSA holds a large collection of photographs, some have been fully catalogued, some are part of an old card index, some haven't been catalogued at all, some are buried within the main body of Archive collections!  Hence, finding a particular image can be very difficult and very time-consuming.

I am currently auditing the 'old' photograph card index. Before computer cataloguing systems were used, photographs held by LHSA were recorded by means of a typed index card for each photograph or group of photographs, with a reference number and brief description. There are probably about 1,000 index cards, some have been marked to show that the photograph(s) in question is missing.  To carry out the audit each index card is typed into a spreadsheet and the corresponding photographs are checked to see if they exist and that their description is accurate.

The reason for the audit is twofold: It is very useful to have the data held on the index cards in digital format which can be searched electronically by keyword; and also, the information in the cards can be incorrect so I am creating a much improved and accurate photographic finding aid.  As the information is typed up, I am adding other useful information to the descriptions, for example:  index terms (people or hospital names), information about duplicates, cross references to digitised slides, links to SCRAN etc. In this way it will be easier to find images on a particular topic for enquirers and to locate the original prints and negatives from digital copies. 

It is hoped that this audit data will eventually be added to an all-encompassing image catalogue describing LHSA's entire photographic collection, and then perhaps we could digitise all of the photographs......

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