Best Software for cataloging a collection?

My father-in-law just moved into a new house where his entire antique collection can now be displayed in one very large room. (He has the type of collection that is insured by Lloyds of London.) He’s getting up in age, so I asked him what he uses to keep track of this collection and he has it all written in a notebook. He agreed he should digitize it and take pictures of everything. So after some discussion, we’re going to buy him an iPad Air with a magic keyboard, to start to catalog everything.

So what app would be best? He would only be taking pictures of each piece and then adding notes about each one. Would be something our family would want to access in the future. Apple Notes? I thought Evernote as well but I’d like to avoid a subscription if I could. Just wanted to throw it out to MPU and see if someone had a suggestion I wasn’t thinking of. Thanks!

Maybe Tropy could work? It’s a free, open-source project by the makers of Zotero. No subscription!

TapForms is an easy to use general purpose database.

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Back in the day I experimented with Delicious Library for this kind of thing. Looks like it’s still running ( but it’s macOS: I’m surprised that there’s no iOS app.

These days, I’d probably go with Airtable. That would require a bit of set-up on your part, but shouldn’t be too difficult… and there’s probably a template that would get you most of the way there. Something like: My Art Collection Template - Free to Use | Airtable

I forgot about Airtable. That might be the best option although with enough pictures he might have to pay for it but it would probably be worth it.

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I would vote Airtable. I have catalogued my wife’s baking cutter collection so she knows what she has when she is out and about. Avoids duplication in our case, not about the value.

I think Airtable would be a good choice for this project. Notion could also work well, especially if you want to allow for more free-form notes.

I’d just use Apple Notes - don’t bother with fancy database schemas when you just need a picture and notes. Everything else will be overly complicated for the project you describe.


Especially if this is the first time he’ll be using something like an iPad. Apple Notes might be easier to use for someone unfamiliar with using mobile gadgetry.

Of course if he’s already pretty tech savvy, then your options open up a bit more.

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Airtable is a terrific app. I think it’s free. It’s easy to set up.

I think you can add about 4 photos per item.

I remember how fun it was to scan all of the barcodes. It was great software at its time. Wish they kept up development.

Oh I love databases! My idea of a good time. Ideally I need more than just photos but I definitely need the photos in there.

I tried Notes but it was a royal pain. Maybe I could link to my photos in a Notes database.

I was responding specifically to the OP - I use Filemaker and FMGo but thinking of the right tool for the job….why build a database and run a server when Notes is sufficient?

I think Home Inventory might fit the bill. Failing that I am a big fan of TapForms. One of the preset databases it comes with is a home inventory.

So if you are merely cataloging items then Notion. If you are capturing the items, context, research, photos, etc then I would use Craft.

I have 2 options for you. The first is simple and keeps everything in one place and out in the open

Obsidian with an attachments folder inside that holds the pictures.

Transclude the picture files into the notes and just write simple text in any format. You could get fancier and add dataview info via templates he fills out that will allow for better searching.

It’s what I’m starting to do with our own collections of stuff.

The alternative is anotehr product I’m familiar with but I think it’s totally overkill. I just mention it because you said his collection is a very valuable one. In that case you might look at collection software meant for handling museum collections.

What we are considering for our local historical society is which is an open source collections management package. Active development and a lot of ways to share the data across the net which for a museum and perhaps for family access is useful

I did try Notes and found it too cumbersome. I wonder if you can import some type of blank text… like formatted to add information…templates. There would be a lot of limitations with Notes.

You could create your template and pin it in the folder, so it remains at the top of the notes in the folder. Then for each entry, right click> Duplicate the template and fill it out, add your pictures. One note per item

Thanks! I appreciate your input!