Evernote as Archival Tool: Photographs Edition

I used digital photography for about half of my archival research for my dissertation; the central collection for my research at the Tennessee State Library and Archives did not allow digital photography.

I liked using the camera, although I did develop a strange crick in my neck. But it gave me an invaluable record of the sources that has been useful in the revision of the manuscript. In pursuing new research for the revision, I visited a new collection, and decided that I would use Evernote to record my digital pictures. I had already used Evernote to take notes in collections that did not allow digital photography and found it to be useful. I found that adding pictures to the notes built on the usefulness of Evernote as an archival tool.

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I did this for three main reasons that stem from the problems I encountered with digital photography. Here are the problems and they ways that Evernote would, I hope, address them, and some added benefits I discovered along the way.

  • Problem #1: Multiple page documents became unwieldy to organize and re-read. I found myself getting a bit lost in the files and in switching back and forth between pages.

Evernote Solution: Using the camera feature within a note, I could take and add multiple photos to the same note, thus keeping multiple page documents together.

Added benefit: If you so choose, Evernote can sync with your calendar and create automatic headings for the notes. So when I went to the Joseph Martin Papers at Stonehill College, I entered that as an event from 9-5 in my calendar, and it automatically generated the headings for the notes I took. It saved some time and allowed me to bulk tag them and reorganize the notes later. Since the images themselves contained the citation information, it wasn't necessary to put in the box/folder number for each note.

  • Problem #2: Flagging documents for later became a problem, as I found it cumbersome to record notes separately from the photos of the documents themselves. I tried recording notes by file, box number, and aggregating them at the end of the day, but that just created more documents to sort back through when trying to find a particular thought.

Evernote Solution: I could record initial thoughts about a document in the note itself or tag the note with a topic, individual, or issue so as to find it later when writing about a particular subject.

Additionally, for those of us working with modern sources, particularly typewritten documents, Evernote's built in OCR syncing allows for searching the images themselves. Of course, this requires that all images be synced with their server, requiring a subscription to Evernote's service.Syncing notes also makes research available on multiple devices, including mobile devices. No need to upload photos from camera to computer, especially if you can sync through your archive's wi-fi connection.

This tool is not without pitfalls, of course. Storing photos in one application like this makes me nervous; I don't like relying on one type of program for all my needs. I always print out hard copies of my research, which though easier and more organized with Evernote, isn't without it's problems. Images sometimes split across printed pages, and the images aren't always of the best quality. I'm sure there are some issues that I'm not anticipating or have not yet encountered, so if anyone wants to throw me a heads up, that would be greatly appreciated. Does anyone use Evernote in the archives?

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Posted in Software Post Date 12/31/2022






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