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Classifying the Photos

How does one put some order to a collection consisting of thousands of images? There are no hard-and-fast rules, as in the case of books. Because their appeal is to the senses, there is a good deal of subjectivity at play when we look at pictures. They thus tend to resist classification.

In the course of our readings, we discovered this bit of wisdom on classifying images: First, you should know what you have; then you figure out the most appropriate classification scheme for what you have. This made perfect sense.

So we set out on a road that we hoped would take us where we needed to go.

  • We surveyed a sample of almost 10,000 4”x 5” photos which the Ayala Museum Research Team had mounted on 5”x 8” cards. It helped that these photos had notes on them. Along with the images, these notes gave us an idea of the range of subjects we were dealing with.
  • Then our Senior Researcher, who had been with the collection for the longest time, made a tentative list of subjects, in alphabetical order, derived from the Sears List of Subject Headings, 14th edition, 1991, ed. Martha Mooney.
  • We then grouped kindred subjects together so we could assign a heading to each group of subjects. (Notice: We found ourselves going from specific to general. We didn’t plan it that way; that is just the way things turned out.)
  • Serendipity led us to 18 Generic Headings.
  • For discipline in classifying, we defined the scope of each Heading.

Documenting the Photos

Our second task was to determine the data, or fields, that should go with each image. We made a tentative list of fields we thought would be helpful to researchers. When a colleague told us about the SEAiT (SouthEastAsian images & Texts project) homepage, we checked the fields we had listed against the SEAiT list. Finally we came up with 17 fields for our data entries.

Establishing a Procedure

The classification and data-entry system cleared the way for our resident IT head, Manuel Arcamo, who is concurrently the Library’s Filipiniana Manager/Ayala Foundation CIO and the overseer of Retrato, to beef up the project team and establish a workflow which would include digitization of the images.

The Retrato Project
Retrato's Roots
Classification Scheme
Technology Used

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