Gift to help catalog antique pottery
December 16, 2012 12:53 PM   Subscribe

I need help finding a gift for somebody who is a constant state of labeling and cataloging his collection of antiquities and pottery. What would help him? (more inside)

So, I have this uncle who goes to auctions and collects very specific rare pottery. He has hundreds of pieces. He's been trying to label them but I his current method is to write the info on a piece of paper and drop it in. I'm trying to think of a way to help him catalog this. Suggestions? Note: can't put stickers on them directly.
posted by Raichle to Home & Garden (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Is he tech-savvy? How about a digital camera to take pictures and organize them on a computer?
posted by Aliera at 1:58 PM on December 16, 2012

Is there some sort of program that would combine these? He's not savvy but I could make him so if there was a purpose.
posted by Raichle at 1:58 PM on December 16, 2012

Okay so I know this is something I've recommended before, but you could try to hire a consultant for him through the AAM or another society. Depending on the type of ancient materials we're talking about, there could be a professional organization with consultants whose specialty is in his area. You might be able to hire someone for an initial consultation for just an hour or two to go over his collection (if he agreed!) and provide some basic ideas for organizing and stabilizing the objects.

Generally speaking, labeling objects directly can be dicey if you don't have conservation training. Any labeling needs to be fully reversible and not harm the fabric of the object. Labeling things directly can be really simple if you have the tools, but he would need to establish an organizational system and also figure out the best kind of archival materials to use. This is a basic kit from Gaylord with some of the basics but again what will work best depends on the kind of objects. Gaylord is a great source for getting some basic archival boxes, labels, and other materials, which could be a real help for your uncle in a very low-tech way-- he can just label them with pencil. You could also help him by scanning his paper records and backing them up so that he will have a permanent record.

There definitely are computer programs that can help create a database for his objects, but not all of them are very user friendly (or inexpensive). Is he conversant with Microsoft Office products? Even an Excel database might help keep basic notes, and a simple system of numbers could be used to match that list up with photos of his objects. If these are actual antiquities (like Greek pottery,) it is probably a very, very good idea to keep careful records of the auction sales and photographs. Establishing provenance is a very important issue when dealing with many categories of antiquities for legal reasons, and keeping a backup database of his sales and items should also be helpful for insurance purposes in case anything happens to them. Good luck! It's a really great idea, and I hope it goes well!
posted by jetlagaddict at 2:45 PM on December 16, 2012

I don't know if this counts as threadsitting but I wanted to reply to this. He's very familiar with the materials he's collecting and doesn't adhere tags to anything. I guess Excel would work but I was looking for something a bit more interesting - the photo angle seems interesting if I can find something logical to combine it with. It's probably too late to get the auction info, sadly, but the ebay stuff should be easy to track.

Basically, I want something sexier than Excel - with photos (that's where I've gotten so far).

Thanks for the advice!
posted by Raichle at 2:53 PM on December 16, 2012

Well, the only systems I've worked with have been much larger systems designed for museums, like PastPerfect or Embark. This seems like a pretty good list of collections management software options, and at least one of them appears to have packages designed for smaller collections like this. ArtSystems appears to be one option but I feel like it got a bad review from another Mefite. This is a question from a few years ago, but it looks like the answers would still be valid for what you're looking for.

They should all have easy photo options. If he does have the old auction catalogs or records of the sales dates, those are easy to scan and add into a bigger database. I hope that's a little closer to what you're looking for!
posted by jetlagaddict at 3:14 PM on December 16, 2012

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