Web Publishing Family Photos

Joy Tahan Ruddell

Museum & Collections Consultant

I have a very large family and with that comes generations of family photos. I recently inherited 12 banker boxes full of family photos and ephemera. Some family members are identified, but I am too young to remember or recognize many. Ideally, I would have cataloged all these photos with my mom before she passed, but I did not. I am in a situation many of my friends are in - I have tons of awesome photos of people that I am related to somehow but do not know. This is where web publishing can help.

My family is rich with history - my grandparents emigrated to the US from the “Old Country” and brought with them letters, photographs, and documents dated as far back as the mid-1800’s. My father became the repository for generations of this material. After both my parents died, I took it upon myself to organize and catalog the photos (over time of course) and tried to identify as many people as I could. I set aside a couple of hours per week and used CatalogIt with my trusty iPhone, setting out to photograph and document as many photos as I could. 

I intended to use most of the fields available in CatalogIt -  including dimensions, dates, and photograph type - transcribing the inscriptions on the back and the information in letters and documents. I quickly realized that this would take much more time than I had. I shifted gears and set out to photograph everything (front and back) and simply use the title and description field to describe the photo as best I could. That way I could go back later and more completely fill out the rest of the documentation. I was able to identify about 10% of the people in the photos, and the rest were a mystery to me. Luckily, I have a lot of cousins who could be able to identify some of them. But how was I going to share all of these photos with them? Simple - with the CatalogIt HUB. 

I moved groups of photos into different folders based on the little information that I had - one with the general family name, one named “documents,” and another named “mystery.” I shared these folders on the HUB and sent the link to my family through our group chat. I asked everyone to review the folders and send me info about any of the photos or family members they could. It turned out my HUB site was a hit! My family loved looking at photos they had not seen before, and all of them sent me notes that identified many of the people in the photos. 

Of course this project is not complete - I still have several boxes to document, but I am continuing with this process and I simply send my family group chat a message when there are more photos for them to look at. Adding to that are the additional boxes of photos my family has been sending to me that they have found in their closets and garages. Since all CatalogIt subscriptions allow for multiple logins, I gave access to two of my cousins so they can also catalog their photos in the same account! Now we can all work on this fantastic family documentation project together. 

Using the CatalogIt HUB to answer my family mysteries has been a resounding success so far. I am excited to get through more boxes and can’t wait to see what mysteries my cousins and I solve together. 

For more information and specific instructions on how to publish to the web, email at support@catalogit.app and ask for the web publishing guide.

About the Author

Joy Tahan Ruddell

Museum & Collections Consultant

Joy Tahan Ruddell has almost thirty years of collections and registration experience.  Prior to independent consulting, Joy coordinated the registration department at a large California museum which included insurance, loans, acquisitions, collections access and research, policy and procedure development and management, and intellectual property management. Working with staff museum-wide she developed programs that helped the community engage with collections. Joy has extensive experience with major collections projects including: inventories, collections moves, project management, acquisition and deaccession activities, NAGPRA projects, grant writing, insurance and risk management, and loan processing and organization. She specializes in helping museums build capacity through creative problem solving and determining scalable solutions. Extensive knowledge and advanced understanding of national standards allows her to assist with virtually any collections conundrum.