Wherever you store your historical documents, photos, videos and such, spend some time providing information about each item to not only document the standard “who, what, where and when”, but to also make it easier for others to find your treasures.
This is called indexing and is quite simply the virtual version of the old library card catalog – only much more powerful. Your indexing efforts will make it easier for search engines to find your stuff when your research cousins key in their search criteria. Fortunately, most online storage platforms provide facilities to include this information. We just need to take the time to do it.
Here is the properties page for a document in Scribd. You’ll notice the title, description, category and tags fields on the page – along with a “discoverability” gauge next to the Save button. That gauge moves as you add more information about the document. Below is the Scribd search record for this document.
When choosing tags for your index record, think of the search terms you would use to find this record – location, type of record, surnames if appropriate – and include them. Look back in the Scribd index example above and you’ll notice further down the page there are some choices for category. Those options are pretty basic, so use the tags field to include more specific keywords to describe your publication.
Writing descriptions can be a challenge and the urge is there to take the easy way out. Your descriptions are often the text that appears just under the title in most search results – especially from the “big” search engines. I just remember how often I was frustrated when search results didn’t give me enough information to determine if this was the item I was looking for. That’s motivation to get me back on track.
The Flickr photo page is as much presentation as it is information, but all the necessary data types are there. At the top of the sidebar is the title and just below is the description. The tags icon is selected (just under the comments box) so you are seeing those tags displayed below it. Click on the information icon to display camera information along with location details, copyright information and Flickr-specific details.
Even video platforms have index records for helping others find your old home movies, family documentaries and other video projects. This example comes from the Vimeo platform and includes the standard fields for title, description and tags. The Privacy panel gives you options to determine who can view this video and whether you will allow downloads. You’ll find copyright selections in the Advanced panel. The Credits button allows you to spotlight others who either appear in the video or helped make it. Right now you can only credit other Vimeo users, but there are plans to include non-Vimeo contacts too. That could make this feature especially useful for family historians.
These are just a few examples of platforms used to share and display your family’s collection, but they are representative of most of the current online platforms. Including appropriate indexing information is the difference between just posting a bunch of documents online and creating a personal archive. Look for tools such as Flickr’s free bulk upload app which makes it easier to batch process the index information as part of the upload process. Your efforts will be well rewarded when your treasures start attracting research cousins – and their pieces of the family history puzzle.