PastPerfect Software: Better Access to Collections
By Rebecca S. Rice
The Filson is just one of many historical societies, museums and universities using PastPerfect as a way to catalog collections. PastPerfect allows for quick and easy access to information regarding Filson holdings for staff members and patrons who are visiting the society. Two of the most important features of the updated PastPerfect software are the search capabilities which enable users to access different collections at the same time and the ability to attach multiple images to each record.
Filson volunteer Phyllis Burger has been working with PastPerfect since 2000 and has cataloged 12,000 photograph entries and 5,300 museum item entries to date. Initially Burger created catalog records for our museum holdings based upon accession records accumulated over many years. Over the course of four years, more information has been added to museum records about our collections of portraits, edged weapons and firearms. Reference Specialist Robin Wallace compiled and incorporated information about various artists whose works are part of The Filson’s portrait collection. Volunteer Julie Payne and interns from the University of Louisville assisted Wallace with the artist database. Detailed descriptions, measurements and background information of these items are now included in the database. Some records now include an image of the described item.
The software’s new feature of attaching multiple images to records is particularly useful for the print and photograph collections. Michael Veach, special collections assistant, organized The Filson’s print collection in PastPerfect. This has resulted in a huge increase in interest and use of The Filson’s prints by staff members and patrons.
The first phase of processing the photograph collection within PastPerfect involved organizing our collection of images of individuals, which include cartes-des-visites, cabinet cards, gelatin prints, ambrotypes, daguerreotypes and tintypes. These images are now attached to the records, which include information about the photographers when available. Recent upgrades to PastPerfect also allow for the attachment of multiple images to an individual record. Long-term plans include utilizing this capability to show photographer imprints with each image.
This feature is also utilized in the cataloging of The Filson’s large, boxed collections, which consist of multiple items. Within each record, various photographs are chosen to highlight the scope of each collection. These larger holdings include individual, family and business photographs. Some of these collections include the Beauchamp-Bush family, Cave Hill Cemetery, Frederick Verhoeff, Samuel Plato, the Buckner family, Enid Yandell, Mona Bismarck, Rogers Clark Ballard Thruston, the Louisville Railway Company and General Electric.
The second phase of the photograph collection project focused on arranging our large collection of “subject” images. Subject categories allow researchers to access images that pertain to their topic of interest. Subject headings include Louisville homes, Kentucky counties, sports and recreation, stores and businesses, tobacco, the 1890 tornado and the YMCA, among many others.
Given its capabilities, PastPerfect has proven to be a valuable tool in The Filson’s ongoing attempts to make its collections easily accessible to its many patrons.
The Filson Historical Society