From Autographs to Zebras
Displaying Your Collection on the Internet
  

By Don Shelton

Have you ever felt you would like an Internet website to show off your collection, but concluded your lack of computer knowledge and the cost prevented it? Well, that was my situation. My technology level is low. I do not have a cell phone and need a child to help me work a VCR machine. My computer, scanner and digital camera are all of 2000 vintage. I do not understand html language, although I am aware of what it looks like (mostly gobbledy-gook!). I do not understand hyperlinks, but I know they appear on the Internet and will take me to another page.

Don Shelton, miniature protrait collector and blogger.

However, like any collector wishing to record research notes, I started to fret about how I could keep the information on my computer. I wanted to remember Internet references and be able to readily exchange images and research information with other people. I was worried about the hassle of backing up my research information to disc and had a fear of deleting files in error.

From researching art museum websites, I became conscious of how unwieldy they were. Nearly all work on an "Item Search" basis required you to know what you are looking for before you start to search. I felt those websites would be better served having what I call a "Gallery View". This would quickly display all collectibles in a particular category all in one Gallery (more like an eBay or Google search does), thus allowing a visitor to browse each Gallery, as when visiting a "live" art gallery or museum.

The breakthrough came early last year when surfing blogs about art. It suddenly occurred to me that a blog and post format could achieve my aim. (Don't be frightened by the words blog and post. Just think of a blog as a computer book, with a post being an entry in that book.) The objective is to create a user-friendly website which quickly displays items in a collection. The particular advantages of a blog are: it is free, and it has standard templates, so it can be used with the website-creating work al-ready done.

If you are interested in the concept, but wish to test your confidence level, see if you can answer "yes" to most of the following ten questions. If so, you should have no difficulty in setting up a blog website to display your collection.

Collecting Enthusiasm
Does your collection seem to be growing all the time?
Do you enjoy researching items in your collection?
Do you worry about how to record research notes and other information?
Would you like to share your collection with people in other cities or countries?
Have you ever thought you would like to publish a book about your collection?

Computer Knowledge
Do you send and receive emails?
Have you searched the Internet, using a blue hyperlink to move between pages?
Can you find your find your way round Amazon, eBay or Google?
Can you use a scanner or digital camera?
Can you cut, paste or copy between documents?

A basic blog website can be set up in an hour and then be ready to start loading your collection. After that, the size and complexity of your collection will dictate the time taken. If you are interested in the idea, here are two websites using the concept.

The first has been created purely as an example and shows how to set up your own personal website. You can go there and imagine how your collection could appear.

It is called "Your Collection" and is at www.yourcollection.blogspot.com

The second is a "live" collection and displays a collection of 800 items. It is called "Artists and Ances-tors" and is at www.portrait-miniature.blogspot.com

The process uses a blog format and posts. As mentioned above, just think of a blog as meaning a computer book and a post as meaning an entry in a computer book. Thus, posting to a blog is merely writing an entry in a computer book.

Go to google.com, then click on "more" in the top left menu bar, and then "Blogger". It is easy to follow the steps there, such as choosing a name and template, and set up a simple blog. While other blog formats should work, Google is easy to use.

It is important to make your collection user friendly for visitors. For a large collection, it is best to have all general information on a Home page and then add a subsidiary blog, which I call a Gallery, to display groups of items.

For each item posted, a photo can be easily added, as well as research notes and hyperlinks to other Internet websites. These hyperlinks are copied and pasted from the Internet destination page to the Compose page of a post. Thus, if you collect autographs, books, photographs, political memorabilia or post cards, you can link to pages about the person, places events connected with them.

You may wonder about copyright protection for your collection. As my own items are all original works of art, I did consider the question of copyright, but felt it was not an issue to worry greatly about. I concluded that if an image became used as often as images of the Mona Lisa are used, the original would be worth more!

Be careful to show full names spelled correctly. As the overall Google search facility accesses each website, I have been contacted by people who are researching their ancestors and have found them in my collection. This has been a great thrill for them and helps make the effort of setting up the website a real pleasure.

As a back up (just in case Google ever crashes), every month or so I copy and paste each Gallery into Word and save it as a Word document. Also, whether or not to include an email address as part of your blog is a personal choice.

Anyway, good luck with publishing your collection on the Internet, whatever it comprises, from Autographs to Zebras.


Don Shelton is a private collector of miniature portraits, and he authored an article on his collection in the August issue. You can see his full collection on the Internet at www.portrait-miniature.blogspot.com.

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