currently, I am half way through reorganizing my genealogical data, documents, and photos with webtrees. After some re-structuring of my digital files and folders as well as of my physical documents, photos, and folders, I recognized that I have to think my genealogy as an “archive” and webtrees as an important tool to organize the archive. I found it very helpful to look at my archive in the same way like to visit a public archive. It needs to be organized in a way that someone else (and myself!) can efficiently find useful information.
In the following paragraphs, I want to share some of the concepts, which I have applied. Afterwards, I will share some draft ideas and concepts for further enhancements.
I would be happy if you could provide some feedback or share some of your experiences.
Some steps to take to organize an archive within webtrees:
Design a directory structure for your archive (in some arbitrary text editor, text program, or spreadsheet)
Create a dedicated repository <My Archive> as REPO object to represent your archive in webtrees
Put all your sources of your genealogy into webtrees as SOUR records and assign them to <My Archive>.
For each of the sources, fill the Call Number related to <My archive>
Include the directory (or better: abbreviations of the directory) from 1. to the Call Number of the sources in <My archive>, e.g. “/Biogr/Mil/MilHe/Nr. 5 ” for the 5th source in the directory “Biographies/Miller/Miller, Henry/”. Note: This is a pretty usual way to organize call numbers, which is also used by professional archives.
Put all the media files related to a source into a webtrees media folder, which directly corresponds with your archive directory structure from 1. and your Call Number structure from 5., e.g. ”../webtrees/data/media/Biographies/Miller/Miller, Henry/Nr. 5 - University Degree Henry Miller from 1920.pdf”
Use the same directory structure also for your physical folders, documents, photos, e.g. put a physical folder in your bookshelf with the label “Biographies” and arrange the documents within the physical folder exactly in the same way like the archive structure from 1. (and also 5. and 6.)
For maintaining and re-arranging the directory structure in webtrees, use “Control panel, Manage family trees, Data fixes, Search an Replace”, e.g. search for: “/Biogr/Mil/MilHe/” and replace by: “/Biogr/UK/MilHe/”
Enhance your source data with information about content, places and date period, e.g. use the available webtrees (and GEDCOM) fields “Data”, “Data/Date”, “Data/Place”, “Data/Note”, “Data/Event” within the webtrees source objects. Note: “Data/Note” can be used for a general description of the source.
Ideas for further steps and concepts:
Generate a finding aid (unfortunately, with several steps of manual effort, but maybe, once a year): e.g. export webtrees data via GEDCOM, convert to csv or xlsx, do some spreadshead or database magic, generate a report (e.g. a MS Access report). Note: A “finding aid” for other users (and yourself!) is a standard overview document used in archives in order to quickly find sources and provide insights about the archive structure. Note: if all the data mentioned above is available in webtrees, it is a perfect base for a finding aid.
Automatically generate a finding aid as a webtrees report: e.g. use the available webtrees data from above and put it into a webtrees report. This would be a great webtrees feature, but needs someone to develop a plugin module for webtrees.
Use a freely available professional archive software, e.g. AtoM (www.accesstomemory.org/) with a similar LAMPP architecture like webtrees: export webtrees source data via GEDCOM, convert to csv or xlsx, do some spreadshead or database magic, generate csv file according to AtoM csv import template, import to AtoM, use full feature set of AtoM archive software, use (generated) hyperlinks from AtoM records to webtrees sources, use AtoM round trip feature for consecutive csv re-imports based on UIDs.
Automatically create AtoM csv export/import files with a webtrees plug-in in order to automate AtoM import and round trip data exchange.
Generate professional finding aid: import data to AtoM, generate a finding aid from AtoM.
Generate standardized archive EAD xml file: import data to AtoM, generate standardized EAD xml file from AtoM.
I have two different types of archives: physical and virtual. The first one are two boxes and a bookshelf at home, the second one are a folder on my NAS (file server) and my e-mail archive. At the moment my archive box is structured in the way that the newest or last used documents are on the top. So point 1 from your list is on my to-do list. For my virtual archives, I'm a fan of flat storage, i.e. no directory structure. There are only two folders "done" and "to-do". I prefer tagging all documents because there are so many different views regarding the photos and documents and a directory structure supports only one view and this is in my opinion not flexible enough. To find something it is easier for me to search instead of following a predefined directory structure.
Your point 1: I have to do this for my archive boxes, but I will not do it for my virtual archives.
Your points 2, 3, 4, and 9: done
Regarding your further steps: I just had a look at AtoM, an interesting tool! Thank you for this hint.
I never heard about www.archivesportaleurope.net, but when I just opened it, I found some very interesting links to documents in an archive, I didn't know about it. Cool!
For my virtual archives, I'm a fan of flat storage, i.e. no directory structure. There are only two folders "done" and "to-do". I prefer tagging all documents because there are so many different views regarding the photos and documents and a directory structure supports only one view and this is in my opinion not flexible enough. To find something it is easier for me to search instead of following a predefined directory structure.
The point about multiple views on the virtual part of the archive is really a good argument. I have to think about this. Maybe, it is also possible to use a combination, i.e. one view by directory, further views by additional attributes.
From your experience: do have proposals for some standard approach for document attributes, e.g. use PDF, JPEG, ... attributes and an open available search tool?