I want to build a digital catalog of my art collection.
July 18, 2015 6:49 PM   Subscribe

Software suggestions for the Mac? I have simple needs. I want a catalog number, date of origin, artist name, and a photograph of each piece. Sorting, filtering and searchability required.

My first thought was Excel since I would be able to sort/filter/search columns based on catalog number, dates, artists, etc. but I cannot find a way to constrain a photograph to a cell in excel.

Is there specific cataloging software that would be good for this? Or is there a way to do this in a spreadsheet application? I also considered tables in Word, but that looks really rookie & I doubt it'll give me the sorting & search ability that I seek.

I currently have Excel & Word 2008 & Omni Outliner Pro 3. I also have Lightroom, which is a less desirable option, but i suppose it could be done with tagging, as photo collections, displayed in a list view. There must be a better way! Filemaker? Willing to spend a little bit on software, as I have many hundreds of art objects to catalog.
posted by Devils Rancher to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Here are some possibilities for you to investigate, and a master list of a bunch of options, most of which will probably not work (too expensive, designed for museums and/or archives with thousands of objects) but which may give you some ideas.
posted by PussKillian at 8:49 PM on July 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: While I don't particularly love it, Filemaker is the first thing that came to my mind. I know of people who are using filemaker for fairly large archives of various types.
posted by primethyme at 10:26 PM on July 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

I was going to suggest Filemaker, too, but thought the expense would be a bit much. That said, I've seen this exact sort of cataloging done in Filemaker and it can look great and work wonderfully.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:36 AM on July 19, 2015

Response by poster: I played around a bit with the 30-day trial of FileMaker last night, & it seems to work pretty well as far as being able to customize the database into things like pop-up lists, pop-up calendars, etc. the image display leaves a bit to be desired -- I need to see if there's a way to link the thumbnail to the original file -- but price-wise, may be the best option. Some of the actual collections cataloging programs look very much more useful out of the box, but yeah, price. Some of them are subscription based, & others many thousands of dollars, and this isn't a professional endeavor. I will still peruse that comprehensive list, but am going to make a go of FileMaker, for now. Even at US $249.00 it's a relative bargain, & will probably have other uses in life once I learn it. Thanks!
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:34 AM on July 19, 2015

Actually, Lightroom is fairly capable in this regard, but you'd never know it from *how absolutely abysmal the docs and virtually all "tip sites" are*.
Sorry. Deep breath.
LR allows you to display any mix of EXIF and IPTC info in the metadata panel.
This plugin is the easiest way to set up your metadata view. You can pretty much put whatever info into any field you want, but the IPTC Extension Artwork / Object fields are probably most appropriate.
Not all fields are exposed to searching, at least with the built-in search tools.
I have a chart in progress here, which shows how various EXIF/IPTC fields are labeled in the different search methods, and which search methods are able to query which fields.

So I'd map it like so:
Catalog number: job identifier
Date of origin: Caption, title, or keyword, in some standardized format (YYYY-MM-DD)
Artist name: Creator

Using those fields, you'd be able to filter using the top filter columns, or set up smart collections.
Created date ranges may be problematic, and is definitely the weakest link. You should be able to shift-click ranges in the filter columns, and if you use a YYYY-MM-DD date structure, you could search for keywords using "starts with..." to isolate years/months/days. But aside from that, and hand-sorting by using either the folder structure or collections to give structure, you'd really have to dig deeper into modifying EXIF data using exiftool (blech).

I'd personally only use LR if I needed to frequently export arbitrary collections, either as file collections or web galleries, or make ad-hoc slideshows.

Of course longterm software selection has criteria other than "can I do it." LR is still available as a standalone purchase outside of CC, and the database is SQLite, but who knows what the future holds.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 8:14 AM on July 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

I use Bookpedia for my books, obviously, and it's flexible enough with its (entirely searchable) metadata fields that you could use it for art — the photographs of each piece would go into the 'book cover' field; it would do everything you want but it would be a bit hacky at the edges.

Delicious Library would probably be a better fit — it has a more general purpose design, though that's about all I can say as I'm not that familiar with it.
posted by spindle at 10:27 AM on July 19, 2015

Response by poster: I looked at delicious, and while it seems useful, FileMaker really looks like the most customizable yet affordable solution. I like that it will print customizable labels, as well, which will help with the process of "what have I catalogued?" (Yes, I will use care about where & how to apply labels to works of art!)

The only drawback is not being able to view images in a gallery, (that I know of -- I need to experiment with different layout options, since you can have multiple layouts) but I may make a companion gallery in Lightroom since the images will be moving through it anyway.
posted by Devils Rancher at 1:29 PM on July 19, 2015

« Older Best & least expensive way to ship bunch of...   |   Kids in the Hall sketch about an aging rocker who... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.