A Good Look at Data Management

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It has taken about a month to go through every single file I’ve downloaded from microfilm, online newspapers, and other sources to confirm that I have (or have not) the actual image that matches my notes/transcriptions. It’s not a bad thing to do. It was just tedious, and took away from writing Emmett’s book.

The good news is that I’ve come up with a much better way to manage the huge number of articles and information bits that I have about Emmett and his colleagues.

I admit I was sloppy when it came to gathering and storing images. I was on such a big roll and so excited to be finding stuff about Emmett, that I would just capture the image with my cell phone camera, and the image would sync with a program called Dropbox, on my computer. It is OK for temporary storage. But, I was on a roll, and didn’t stop to save each image into a dedicated folder on my hard drive.

Dropbox is a fairly decent program. It is free, which is one reason why I like it.

Dropbox is a fairly decent program. It is free, which is one reason why I like it.

What I did was accumulate several hundred images, and left them, mostly, in a Dropbox folder on my computer. I just let them sit there, in the Dropbox folder, and thought, “I’ll get to them when I get some downtime.”

Which, of course, I didn’t.

I soon went off to Florida for my first research trip, and accumulated many more images.

Dropbox is OK, but it isn’t a great place just to leave files alone, without saving them to a dedicated folder on your hard drive. I admit I probably deleted a large chunk of the images in my attempt to make room on my phone for more photos when I was in Florida. Thing is, Dropbox will save all your deleted files on their side only up to 30 days after you delete them (accidentally or not). I didn’t discover my error for several months. I also had the ‘free’ account, which meant the the images were not on the Dropbox server anymore.

I had a list of microfilm that I’d read over the past 18 months, but I never sat down and created a really good master chart.

Here’s a snapshot of the chart I created:

A snapshot of the microfilm master chart.

A snapshot of the microfilm master chart.

The chart is four pages long, by the way. The good news: I have narrowed down exactly what microfilm I need to reborrow — and, I’ve got the OK from the lending libraries, too. I also have a great organizing tool.

 

So as not to repeat this error, here’s how I’m safeguarding my data findings:

Time Machine backup every day. I’ve had this external backup drive all along, by the way, separate from my computer. The backup takes place at least three times a day.

Google Drive backup. I like the idea that my data is also stored in the ether somewhere. This is also a handy way to access my research from another computer, such as when I go to work at the Library of Congress.

This is a great 128 GB zip drive. It is amazing that it will hold the contents of my entire computer, with room left over.

This is a great 128 GB zip drive. It is amazing that it will hold the contents of my entire computer, with room left over.

A 128-GB zip drive. My husband got this for me last week. I can store my entire computer on this one little drive.

Hard copy transcription. This one is a no-brainer and what has probably saved me from going off the deep end in this missing .jpg mess. The fact is: I have the exact text transcribed, along with the citation. That’s all I need to prove scholarship for the information I’ve found. (I just like having the image to go with the entire package.)

No more procrastination. It is a pain to sort and file a large quantity of anything. Had I done it in small chunks, perhaps at the end of each reel, I’d have the images secured.

Live and learn!

Because I have such great notes and transcribed articles, recapturing the microfilm images will be a snap. I’m looking forward to the film arriving in a week or so. Meanwhile, I’ve caught up on things, and now I can ease back into writing.

Looking forward to film!

Looking forward to film!

 

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