Digitizing and Organizing Your Research
- Digital camera
- Tripod (with a remote if you want to make your life even easier)
- 1-2TB external hard drive for storage and/or backup
- Database (see below)
Research Database Options:
- DevonThinkPro: You can buy it for $149, but there may be educational discounts available.
- Evernote: (Free) You can use the notebook organization structure to create different collections of images, documents, and research notes. By tagging each item you add into your notebook, you can easily find related items, even across notebooks. If you add typewritten, text documents or type in your notes, all of that text is automatically OCR’d, so your database is full-text searchable. (Unfortunately, it doesn’t OCR handwriting, but scholars are working on tools for this, which we can discuss if you’re interested.) You can even clip information from websites using the Web Clipper plugin for Firefox. This option is best if you’re looking for an inexpensive solution to keeping track of your own research. It’s not a good option if you want to share the images and other materials publically.
- Filemaker Pro: ($9/month subscription paid by the year, or $108/year). This is another great tool for tracking your own research sources for personal organization because it handles a variety of formats with ease: images, documents, notes, references in a more structured way. It’s an easy-to-use relational database in which you can upload your notes and excel files to customize the structure or start from scratch and create your own. Here’s a brief article on using Filemaker Pro to organize your research. Again, this is not the right option if you want to share any of the images or other source materials publicly. For detailed descriptions on how Ansley T. Erickson set up Filemaker Pro with screen shots, see “Historical Research and the Problem of Categories.” Erickson also provides the following list of alternatives as well:
- Heurist: Built by the University of Sydney, this database was created specifically for humanities scholars and handles multiple data types. It’s quick and easy to get started, alter the structure of the database at any time, and it handle non-Western date systems and ambiguous dates. This is a web-based database that allows you to archive, search, analyze, and create visualizations of your source materials. On the website, you’ll find tutorials, a showcase of projects, and documentation to help you get up and running. This database forms the repository from which the Digital Harlem project draws. You can read more about the project here. That means that if you wanted to create a website to contextualize and share some of your source materials later, you could use the database you build in Heurist to pull sources from to display on the webpages or embed in Google or GIS maps, as with the Digital Harlem Project.
- You may hear about Nota Bene, but I found the learning curve to be too steep when I was immersed in archival research.
- Finally, if your purpose is to create an archives that is searchable by the general public and create digital scholarly exhibits that contextualize and offer a scholarly analysis of your source materials, Omeka is your best bet. To get started, I would try the basic free version, which is web-based and therefore works on both Mac and PCs. If you’re interested in this option, here is a tutorial to help you get started.