I’m fairly certain that most people would find cataloging artwork to be incredibly monotonous. In fact, even though cataloging Jim’s work is a part of the plan that I’ve been pretty excited about since my project first took shape, I sometimes think it’s just too boring for me, too. That is, until I actually look at it on a larger scale and am blown away by how cool it actually is.
The thing about having a digital catalog of an art collection, is that, once you have slogged through all the entry work, everything you know about the art is suddenly searchable. Peripheral facts about Jim’s work—like how many pieces use a certain material or what percentage if the work have specific colors—that before I could never know off the top of my head, are now only a word search away. Even easier is to sort pieces by different data, such as location or approximate creation date.
Right now, I am using an archival database from the Museum Archive Software Project. The program, created by part-time historian Jim Halpin, is free for the basic edition and an easy upgrade to the premium with the purchase of Halpin’s book. (The upgrade, in my opinion, is definitely worth it, if only for the ability to add pictures to your database.) Compared to other professional cataloging software packages, which can run from upwards of $800 to a full $5,000, Museum Archive’s software is an obvious choice for non-profits, historical societies, and personal projects.
Granted, Museum Archive’s software may not be as fancy as more expensive options—though I have used PastPerfect, and there’s not too much difference—and it only works on PCs. On the other hand, Halpin is very in touch with his creation and readily available through email if you have problems. He also seems to think of his program as a work in progress and is open to users’ suggestions.
Obviously, despite my complaints of boredom, I’m kind of having fun here. I can organize and read Jim’s artwork in any way that I want, and I can easily get in touch with Halpin’s “customer service” if I have any trouble. Basically, I’m very happy with my in-progress digital catalog. With it Jim’s work will become infinitely more accessible. Now, if I could only finish it faster….