Friday, 10 July 2015

Pinterest as a visual research diary ...

Recently, I've been spending some time with Pinterest.

For those of you who havn't played with it, Pinterest is a scrapbooking application that lets you save and organise images.

Now I have a deep interest in that nebulous period centred around the Russian revolution, which of course spills into the events related to the end of the AustroHungarian empire and the reshaping of the European map into something like the one we know today.

So, this is a period that interests me, and unlike my other great love, the world of late antiquity, one that had been documented by pictures. Often small scratchy pictures, taken on small simple Kodak cameras, but pictures nevertheless.

And over the last few years various digitisation initiatives to put World War 1 material online have had the indirect effect of putting a lot of photographic material relating to that period online.

And there's a lot. German soldiers who were amateur photographers were encouraged to take their cameras with them, something that was not the case with the British, the Romanovs were inveterate picture takers. There's also a vast wealth of material from the old Habsburg lands and more generally from the successor states to the Soviet Union.

So the first problem I faced was how to archive the material – you never know, one day I might turn it from a hobby to something more serious. My first thought was Evernote which I use to organise and store print material.

The only problem I found is that while text is searchable, unless you tag images correctly and consistently, finding images is a tedious process. You can't look at a pile of images on the screen in order to select the image you want.

I then thought about using Omeka. It's very powerful but it's more a tool to assemble information than one to capture content. It would definitely have a role in putting together and assembling material, but not to capture one.

And then I thought about J's visual diaries – which are basically books full of doodles, images and written notes and how she spends a lot of time with iPhoto organising material and indeed archiving scanned sketches and drawings to iPhoto.

So the answer seemed to be a web application that allowed you to easily capture visual content. And Pinterest seems to fit the bill as a first pass capture tool. It's not about telling a story, it's about assembling the material to tell a story.

Obviously, I both need to extract the images that I saved to Evernote and load them into Pinterest and find a way to get the material out of Pinterest – I can see myself building an Omeka exhibition eventually, but it seems to do the job with a minimum of fuss ...

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