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1 May 2019

Matchmaking: when collections met photography

Written by Joe Cooper, Collections Information Officer
Bronze inkwell with a greyhound on top, from Hill of Tarvit
Bronze inkwell adorned with a greyhound, from Hill of Tarvit
The National Trust for Scotland’s Collections Information Officer keeps the information we hold about our collections and objects as accurate and usable as possible.

The prospect of Project Reveal providing an inventory record and professional photo for every object in the Trust’s collections was hugely exciting for me. But having done collections inventory work myself, I know how difficult it can be to get each object linked up to its photo. Every object needs a unique number; the photograph also needs the same unique number attached, then it has to be attached to each record one by one. It was overwhelming to think of doing this for every single object we came across in our properties.

So we had a think about how we could make this run more smoothly. What if it was possible for every photo to automatically link to the information about the object in the photo? With the project start date rapidly approaching, we wondered if anybody had ever done that before. The company we worked with, Knowledge Integration, had a track record with exactly this sort of tricky issue. Their solution was a custom installation of their CIIM software.

CIIM, pronounced ‘sim’, stands for Collection Information Integration Middleware, and it runs in the ‘middle’ of our photography database and our objects database. Every evening, it automatically runs through all the records of all the objects in our properties, and checks for any new ones. It does the same with the photographs, reading the unique numbers which our photographers tag them with. Then it finds matches between the two and makes the links automatically.

We now have over 100,000 photos which have been automatically linked to their corresponding object records. So anyone who looks up any of these objects in our database can see a beautiful professional photo – and it works both ways, so anyone who looks up the photo can see details about the object. Now I don’t need to think about how many hours it would have taken to do this one by one!

Project Reveal

Find out more about this Trust-wide collections digitisation project.

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