Cataloging Research or Researching Catalogs

I’m a list-keeper.  I love writing lists of my goals and the feeling I get when I can cross something off–so satisfying! I realize, however, that making a list of one’s life does not necessarily expedite the experience.

That being said, I’ve been trying to be patient with how slow this process is going.  It’s not that I’m just biding my time in the interim–I have plenty to do–but I really just want to get started on going through the vintage clothes!  I’ve found, however, that everything on my list takes about 5 other steps to accomplish! Here are a few of my goals:

1) Finding a cataloging system. 

I did a little research online and found a few websites that would design a catalog/websites for you, and for pretty cheap most of the time.  Money is still an issue however, and none of these quite fit the bill for what I was imagining.  Margo suggested that I talk to Carli Robertson in the Archives of the library, to see how they catalog their extensive collection.  Before doing that, though, I talked to my friend Elizabeth, who had worked with Carli during her undergrad.  She said that they used a program called FileMaker, but I wasn’t sure what that entailed.   Sure enough, from my conversation in the archives with Carli and Mary I am convinced that FileMaker was EXACTLY what I had been looking for.  I was even able to download it to the Studio’s Mac the same day (with the help of the trusty student technology assistant!). Now all that stood between me and the perfect catalog was an 11-chapter tutorial on how to use FileMaker.

11 Chapters and a week and a half later I have emerged, my brain aching slightly from the expansion. I discovered that FileMaker is a very fluid program that will allow someone to make a catalog of any kind of data they should wish to organize and then retrieve.  I think I understand the technical, which-button-do-I-press-now, aspects of the program, but sometime the data relationships still escape me. I am counting on the idea of jumping in and trying it, and hoping it will become clearer.  

Originally, I imagined that all the information I needed to collect on a single garment was:

  1. Time period information
  2. Acquisition information
  3. Preservation status
  4. Photo of garment
  5. Value
  6. Preservation needs
  7. Garment details, such as damage, textile identification
  8. Log for regular re-packing

gathered from Your Vintage Keepsake, by Margaret T. Ordoñez.  However, from reading Cataloging Cultural Objects, a veritable encyclopedia on the documentation of visual objects, I will be attempting to delve deeper.  As I read this text, I have to keep reminding myself: my catalog is not this complicated, my catalog is not this complicated….Tomorrow I plan on creating a sample catalog record!
2) Another hurdle has been funding.  The process for applying for a Richter grant has changed, so I just turned in the paperwork, and am hoping I will be hearing back from them soon–including money, hopefully.  It wouldn’t be the end of the world if I couldn’t get funding until next term, but I just feel hobbled when I can’t order the acid-free boxes and tissue RIGHT THIS MINUTE! Alleviating some of this is the consolation that today I bought a dozen of white gloves from <; for less than ten dollars, including shipping, which was even cheaper than

Considering my difficulty in this respect, I also haven’t been able to buy any books. Instead I have requested several from I-Share (Cataloging Cultural Objects is one of these).  The books I currently have checked out are:

  • Your vintage keepsake : A CSA guide to costume storage and display / Margaret T. Ordoñez.
  • X-radiography of textiles, dress and related objects / Sonia O’Connor, Mary M. Brooks.
  • Dating fabrics : a color guide, 1800-1960 / by Eileen Jahnke Trestain.
  • Cataloging cultural objects : a guide to describing cultural works and their images / Murtha Baca … [et al.].
  • Preserving textiles : a guide for the nonspecialist / Harold F. Mailand and Dorothy Stites Alig.

I actually haven’t had a chance to go through all of these, so I don’t know how useful they will all be.

Here are most of the books I first looked at in Phoenix, from the collection at the Heard and Art Museum, not all of which were useful, some of which were instrumental:

  •  Textile care and preservation : a how to manual for owners and collectors / Skov, Nanette
  •  Textiles and museum lighting /Textile Preservation Symposium (1980 Dec. 4-5 : Washington, D.C.)
  • Your vintage keepsake : A CSA guide to costume storage and display/ Margaret T. Ordoñez
  • Chemical principles of textile conservation / Agnes Timar-Balazsy and Dinah Eastop
  • The textile conservator’s manual / Landi, Sheila.
  • The care & preservation of textiles / Karen Finch & Greta Putnam
  • Caring for textiles / Karen Finch and Greta Putnam
  • Preservation of paper and textiles of historic and artistic value : a symposium sponsored by the Cellulose, Paper, and Textile Division at the 172nd meeting of the American Chemical Society
  • Considerations for the care of textiles and costumes : a handbook for the non-specialist / Harold F. Mailand.
  • Sotheby’s caring for antiques : the complete guide to handling, cleaning, display and restoration
  • Tales in the textile : the conservation of flags and other symbolic textiles : preprints, North American Textile Conservation Conference 2003
  • The Directory of hand stitches used in textile conservation / Compiled by Martha Winslow Grim
  • First aid for art : essential salvage techniques / edited by Jane K. Hutchins, Barbara O. Roberts
  • The Winterthur guide to caring for your collection / Gregory J. Landrey … [et al.].
  • The Care of Antiques and Historical Collections / Guldbeck, Per E. and A. Bruce MacLeish

Originally posted on 10/12/10 at my former blog:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.