Customizing Templates

[this is a follow-up on a Twitter conversation re organizing files and customizing templates]


Normally, when I come back from the archives, I organize my jpegs into folders along these lines:
For example in a folder entitled “BritishLibrary_2018”, I will have a series of folders that are labeled according to the unique shelfmark/file ID that the British Library catalogues them under. Each folder then has any jpegs from that file item. I have a separate MSAccess database in which I have logged the descriptions of the files, when they are from, when I looked at them, etc.

These folders might have 2 pictures in them. They might have 200. It all depends on the primary source, how big it is, and how relevant it is- and thus how many pictures I take.

I like the fact that in Tropy I can deal w my archival sources on a granular level, but when you have have thousands of pictures, it is also really helpful to step back and, say, tag and notate the significance of a 200 page file. And then later zoom in and tag and notate individual letters or telegrams within that giant file.

For instance: I want to be able to tag 200 page file xyz with “infrastructure,” “property disputes,” and “petitions.” But I also want to tag one 3-page letter in that file with “emotional appeal”, a different 2-page letter with “international norms”, and then a 1 page press clipping with something else entirely.

The Tropy Twitter account (sorry- I’m not sure the name of the person I’ve been chatting with!) indicated that customized templates allows for the sort of the organizing I’m looking for. But I’m really not clear how to implement that. I understood custom templates as allowing you to create metadata fields that can more accurately reflect the organization architecture of a given archive or library- but I don’t understand how I can leverage them for the type of organization I describe above.

I think maybe I and Tropy are coming at the problem from different directions. So now I need to figure out how to reorient from a Tropy-like direction.

Hi! I’m the Tropy Twitter account. :slight_smile:

I think we can do what you want. Let me see if I can break it down into one possible process. I’m going to explain the process and then give you a few ideas of how custom templates might be beneficial for you.

Your first step is always to record the metadata that applies to everything. So let’s say you bring in your BritishLibrary_2018 folders. Let’s just say for the sake of illustration that one of the folders in there is called “Napoleon Papers.” (Sorry, don’t know what field you’re in!) When you bring in all your Napoleon Papers photos, the first thing you should do is add institutional-level metadata to all of those photos in bulk. So select all your photos and input Archive, Collection, ID, Shelfmark/ID into the template (the metadata pane on the righthand side). Then you’re done with that and you don’t have to mess with it anymore (or try to remember what the shelfmark was or whatever).

Step 2: Merge your photos into relevant documents. Since you already have the shelfmark applied to every one of your photos, you don’t need to think of the shelfmark as the unit, but rather than individual documents within that file. So let’s say that you have a 2-page letter in Napoleon Papers. You can merge your two photos into one item, which then can stand alone (while still retaining that shelfmark metadata).

Step 3: Do individual work with your items. Once you have everything merged into documents, then you can go back and record individualized metadata for each item. That might look like putting additional info into your metadata pane (such as author, date of the correspondence) or it could be a note about what is in the document, or a transcription, or something like that. You can also tag individual items (I’ll come back to tagging in step 4. :slight_smile: ). Here, you could incorporate your research notes from your Access database into a note in Tropy if you wanted (so that everything is in the same place).

Step 4: Returning to your project view, you can now tag your items individually or in bulk. So if you wanted to tag 200 pages as “infrastructure,” you could tag all 200 items at once but still retain their individuality. Alternatively, you could use lists for that kind of structure. Creating an “infrastructure” list, for example, would be one way to thematically organize your materials. (I tend to use lists for more structured organization, like Chapter 1, Chapter 2, etc., but they could easily be used for more thematic organization as well.)

So that’s the process. Here’s how custom templates might help (though to be honest you could do everything I just described without creating a custom template.)

Custom templates allow you to put additional info in your metadata so that you can create uniform entries. For example, I recently wrote a blog post about how I created a custom template to help me organize newspaper articles. The Tropy generic template works fine for most things, but you may want additional fields such as “Hearing date” or “Judge” or “Verdict” (just riffing off your examples of property disputes).

So I think what you really want or need here is a combination of slightly adapted templates, and a more rigorous system of tagging. But I think Tropy is ideal for exactly the situation you’ve laid out–it accommodates multiple layers of metadata seamlessly.

So that was an extremely long answer, but I hope it’s helpful. And I’m happy to provide more assistance on creating or editing templates if you need it!

Two more things about templates.
(1) If your institutional metadata doesn’t exactly match up with the Tropy Generic template, that’s another great place to slightly tweak the template. For instance, if you want the Identifier field to be called Shelfmark, that’s quite easy to do.

(2) You can create templates for every type of document. So you could have a template for memos, pleadings, petitions, newspapers, etc. When you edit things in bulk, you can edit items even if they don’t share a template. If they have the same fields (say, Archive), then it will get filled in. If some of your items don’t have that field, and you try to edit them, Tropy will add that field to those items so you will still be able to see it. The same thing will happen if you fill in a field on an individual item and then switch to a template that doesn’t have that field. An added field that doesn’t appear in your template will show up in the metadata pane with its field name italicized. (This sounds confusing but it is a pretty nice feature.) I recommend doing your big organizational bulk edits first, and then changing to your individualized templates once you have them squared away as items. But Tropy is flexible, so you can do it however you want.

Thanks so much for this! I’ve been working on things all day think I might have found the happy medium.
I did have a question regarding creating and editing existing templates. Is there an easier way to reorder items than dragging? The window for editing templates is pretty small and can’t seem to be made larger- so the process of reorder sometimes means: drag, scroll, drag, scroll, drag, scroll, and so on.

Hopefully as I get a better feel for my workflow and for Tropy in general, I’ll be doing less RE-organizing, but right now it’s a lot of try this, then try that, then adjust and try again.


One more question- I notice that when I go through the items in item view, if I retitle something, then it immediately re-alphabetizes itself- so if I hit alt-down to just work my way through to the next item, it’s isn’t the next page(s), but rather somewhere else entirely. Once everything has been had appropriate metadata attached to it, this makes sense, but it makes it pretty hard to go through and systematically input data for everything.

I agree on both your points. And I think you’ve got the basic idea behind Tropy–readjustment all the time! :slight_smile:

The template editor drag thing is annoying. Our designer is working on a new interface for the template editor, so hopefully soon it will be easier to work with.

I will talk to the developers about the automatic re-alphabetizing thing. I agree that that can be extremely frustrating. It’s a great idea from one perspective but it has its downsides.

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There is ‘automatic re-alphabetization’ at all, this is just a side-effect of the list of items being sorted by title; if the title changes, there is really no other option but to re-order the items accordingly.

However, what you can do is change the order in the project view by selecting a different column as the sort order. If the list is not sorted by title, an item’s position in the list will never change because you changed the title. We’ll be adding support to customize the available columns in the table in the upcoming release so changing sort columns will become more flexible (when working through imported data, for example, it will be useful to order by ‘date added’, because that will remain stable no matter what metadata you change).

I promised I would talk to the developers, and I have (inukshuk, who replied above, is our lead developer :slight_smile: ). He and I discussed this at length this morning. We agree that there is some work to be done here. The easiest fix is coming very soon, when we make available a “Date added” column. This column will allow you to sort all your materials by when you imported them. Then if you sort by that column, your stuff shouldn’t reshuffle.

Hashing this out also led me to a slightly new workflow, which I’ll probably write up on the blog once the new columns are available. The tl;dr version is that it might be easiest to work with the Last Import list (it appears in the lefthand pane) to process through your items initially, because there will be fewer items to work with and so it’s easier to see them even once some of the metadata has changed.

Thanks for bringing these things up–you definitely sparked a conversation that we needed to have! :slight_smile: