Sunday, April 27, 2014

Fifth Rule of Archiving: Be Consistant

When you are preserving and cataloging information that you intend to file, search or filter it is important to be consistent in the type of information you are capturing, how it is recorded and how it is labeled. Consistency upfront will allow you easier and faster access to files and information later on.

  • Digital Files 
    • Consider the naming scheme for your files. For example, a file name that consists of: the year, month, day and then an appropriate unique indicative title(s) (20140405_Hamlet_Review.pdf), has several benefits. All files names that begin with the date will automatically be filtered chronologically in your system. You will also be able to glean key information just by looking at the file name; the date on which the review was published, the production in question, and that the file is a review. 
    • It is a good idea to organize all files for your 2014 production of Hamlet into one folder. However, do not fall in to the trap of relying on that folder for file identification.  For example the playbill document for Hamlet may be in the 2014Hamlet folder and titled, 'playbill'. However if at a later date you compile all of your programs and that file is moved from the Hamlet folder... you may run into some time consuming confusion; especially if all of your playbill documents are named 'playbill.'
  •  Physical Files 
    • An obvious first step is to decide on your filing system - alphabetical or chronological - and be consistent. 
    • When creating your file folders, place the labels in the same location on each folder. This convention makes it easier to quickly scan for relevant information as you thumb through the files.
    • If the physical file has a corresponding digital file, it is a time saver to include the digital folder name/path on the OUTSIDE of the file folder.
If you do have both physical and digital files for the same production, coordinating the naming conventions across the two mediums will help match information.
  • Checklist
    Off-Off-Broadway productions come in an endless variety and key details can vary wildly from one production to another. However where possible it is important to try to capture similar information for each production. In order to help create consistency and to prevent things from slipping through the cracks, create a checklist of common artifacts that you would like to include in your production files. If you are asking a volunteer or team member to help gather these artifacts, a checklist is an excellent tool to help them with their task.

Of course, this is an example, you will have your own set of items to include on your checklist.

TIP: Make sure that your dates follow the same format throughout your archive; i.e. May 1, 2014; 5/1/14 or 05/01/2014.
INCLUDE THE YEAR ON ALL DOCUMENTATION. (Trust me as someone who has been documenting OOB productions for the last six years, nothing is more frustrating than trying to figure out what year a production was performed.)

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