Let me start off first by apologizing for not getting my grant posted on time. I left my flash drive at work when I left on Friday after a 60 hour plus work week, and when I drove all the way back to Arlington on Saturday morning. I discovered the office was locked up due to construction. Needless to say all of this on top of the long week pushed me to my breaking point. After a half hour of sulking in my car, I put on my big girl pants, got myself a cookie and realized I needed to work on my reflection post for data. You will all get to ready my grant proposal tomorrow at 9 am when I can finally get to my desk.
Now on to the data.
It seems like we all have a love/hate relationship with data. I know I do. My typical work day includes no less than 7 excel spreadsheets open on my computer. The ability to rearrange and sort information for whatever project I am working on has saved me countless hours. While I work in within a museum setting, I primarily work with data surrounding donors. Using data sets for archiving never occurred to me. Honestly, I am still struggling to understand how it is done. While the readings were helpful it took me actually creating a spreadsheet to see the benefits. Now that I can manipulate data for my own project I could see myself getting carried away with it and trying to over organize my information.
I also want to discuss cleaning data. Most of my day is spent staring at those mentioned spreadsheets “cleaning” data. And while I admit working with historical data instead of my normal donor data is different, I have learned the importance of clean data and the tangled mess that occurs from the littlest of errors. Let me give you a few examples of little mistakes leading to big problems:
When doing a mailing we select a group from our database and our database manager sorts by name to find duplicates. This should be enough but she never searches names like Bob, Rob, Robert, Robby or Tom, Thomas, Tommy, T. So duplicates slip through. Because we have no standard set for inputting new donors, duplicates abound.
The same goes for searching by address. If your address is 123 Main Street, and it is entered as 123 Main St. It slips through our filter.
Apply these principles to historical data and metadata. If I start my spreadsheet and call pictures photos but later switch to photographs, there is a huge chance for duplication. Date formation is the same, March 1943, 3/1943, March 43- there is too much room for error. The best practice for creating clean data is to set rules and procedures before the data is entered or my personal preference is to use something other than excel. Adobe Bridge is a photo cataloging program, but since it accepts pdf’s I find it useful for keywording, sorting and creating a database for any scanned artifacts.
I know there is a way to create a dropdown box in Excel, which would create a set list of terms. I have tried dozens of times and given up. It is just not an easy to do thing.
Now that I have given my 2 cents on data entry, I am off to retype military titles to make them consistent with DoD guidelines, because- surprise, they have been entered over the years in so many different ways they are not sortable to create a mailing list.