In yesterday’s post, I mentioned that I was working on a new project to try and alleviate the day-to-day boredom of staying at home. That project is a means to (finally!) organize the vast amount of postcards that I have sitting around in plastic bins such as the one pictured in today’s featured photo. It’s a sort of “why didn’t I think of that before?!” task and it may have come to me in a dream.
I awoke very early Monday morning with the plan already clear in my head. I knew exactly what I needed to do and the tools to use. By 6 a.m., I had my laptop booted-up and started the project that occupied that entire day, well into the night, and most of yesterday as well. Today, I did a bit more scanning (there is almost always a stack of “to be scanned” items sitting on my bookshelves). I am still a long way from completion but I have enjoyed the process.
Allow me to back up a bit and explain how the idea came about, the need for the project, and the task that lies before me.
My stamp collection is highly organized (at least the stamps are; most of my first day covers and other forms of collectible envelopes are in a state similar to the postcards). In many ways, stamps are easy. There are catalogues to help define your collection. A philatelist can find a wealth of information out there on any little thing about the hobby. There are a variety of storage options with all sorts of albums, stock books, and holders to organize that collection. There is even inventory software specific to the hobby.
One can begin collecting on the cheap, stamps stored in glassine or other types of envelopes until you can afford something a bit more “showy”. Even boxes of mixed stamps or covers of all types can be organized once you find the time, even if they remain in the boxes when you are done sorting.
In my case, I have scanned every stamp and cover that I have obtained since I moved to Thailand and resumed collecting more than 15 years ago. Those scans have helped enormously over the years as I saved each individual file by country name, catalogue number and year of issue stored on an external hard drive in folders named for the country or territory which issued them. Whenever I would like to use a specific stamp for a blog post, I can find it quickly by opening a folder and scrolling through the images. Whenever I want to add stamps from a particular entity, I can see what I already own and fill the gaps in the numbers by consulting a catalogue.
When I began mounting stamps into the albums I acquired late last year, I could see which stamps would go into which albums although sometimes I could not readily find the scanned stamp (many went into stock books but others were put into envelopes); I also created a spreadsheet that tells me which page of which album any particular stamp has been placed.
Yes, my stamp collection is very organized.
My postcard collection is somewhat different. True, I did scan the front and back of each card as I received it — just as I had done with the stamps — but organization was a bit tougher. There is no catalogue listing all of these postcards so many of the scanned images only have a name like “Scan_20210608-001”. Many are sorted into folders by country or state (for U.S. cards) but many others are just thrown into folders by the month of the scan. There are many instances of different folders containing the same scans (i.e., a Postcrossing folder separated by year received in addition to each of the country folders).
Also, the cards just get thrown into plastic bins once I am finished scanning them. I did make an attempt a few years ago at making my own album pages. It involved making corner notches and cutting out a window so both sides could be seen. They are really nice pages but time-consuming to create. I have never found nice pre-made pages that would show both sides of the postcards. While commercial first day covers are two-pocket stock pages would work, I am usually just as interested in the message (and stamp!) side as the picture side and wouldn’t be satisfied choosing one side over the other to display in the albums.
For years, I have been downloading and modifying stamp album pages to create a virtual album of my collection — inserting scans of the stamps into their proper places on the digital stamp album pages. In my dream, I could see myself doing this and then looking at the boxes of postcards. I woke up with a start, knowing I would solve my problem by creating digital postcard pages. The resulting organization may lead to putting the real cards into the same order as in the albums, or it may not. At least I will have something in the end to look at (and it will be highly portable as well.
I started by opening Microsoft PowerPoint. I started using this program last year to create classroom content and had begun to finally get a bit more familiar with it after reading an article about modifying stamp album pages using PowerPoint.
First, I created a nice border for the pages, headed with a title bearing either a theme (i.e., Christmas) or the name of a country or U.S. state. I then place two images on each page — the front and the back of each card. My only caption is usually a notation of the place and date of the postmark (if any) or what is pictured on the card if there isn’t anything printed on the postcard itself. With the template in place, it is easy to duplicate each slide (page) and then just change the images and bits of text. Each new place or theme is saved as a new album as separate PowerPoint files.
I proceeded through all of my dated folders first — everything prior to May 2020 were sorted into country or thematic folders a long time ago — and this afternoon, I began working through the “Unsorted” folders, mostly removing duplicate scans. In just two days, Some of these albums are just one or two pages. Some, like Germany or New Mexico, are much longer. In just two days, I have made more than 60 of these mini-albums. Once I have gone through all of my scanned cards, I will convert the individual mini-album PowerPoint files into pdf’s and then combine them all into one large album. Bookmarks will take me directly to each theme or place.
This project has been quite enjoyable and I spent most of Monday and Tuesday working on this postcard project and am fairly far along. Today, I took a break from it — doing a bit of scanning and writing another four articles for Philatelic Pursuits. I finished reading Thirteen Moons and read the first fifty pages of An Indigenous History of the United States. I also went grocery shopping and stopped at the local market for a street food dinner (crispy pork with sticky rice and roasted potatoes). I will resume creating postcard pages tomorrow.
It is nice to know what I will be doing the next day. That doesn’t happen very often anymore.
Album in separate PowerPoint files: