Rather, I have been collecting photo CDs over the past 10 years or so. Some are back up CDs I have burned myself. Some are from friends or family. Several are files I've had burned at various photo places, including Walgreens.
In short, they are labeled differently, packaged differently, organized differently. The Walgreens ones are the bane of my organizing existance. What bonehead thought it was great to completely cover the entire CD with a useless Walgreens graphic, and leave no space to write what is ON the CD?
I've tried various methods of keeping track of these over the years.
I have tried writing a list of the contents on the CDs, and the date. This works when it is MY CD, burned by me from my files. But when friends or family give me a CD that they have labeled, that doesn't work. And of course....there's Walgreens.
Several years ago I bought a photo CD binder. It is much like the sort of binder used to hold music CDs, except that the slots are wide enough to also hold an index print of the contents. Sounded like a good idea... but it's not. It's not a good idea for someone like me, who looks at CDs on various computers, at home, at work, at school, and friends' homes. That involves taking the CD wanted out of the binder. Then you have to find a sleeve for it to transport it, and you can usually not take the index print with you. Even if you do, the index print can and does get separated from the CD, and the index print is what tells you what is on the CD.
I have also tried just putting photo CDs into paper or plastic sleeves (see in the picture), and that is how I store them still, but I tried labeling the sleeve itself - with sticky labels, with my label maker, or handwritten on the paper sleeve. Again, if the CD is separated from the sleeve, then your notes as to date and contents are missing too.
I also considered adding sticky labels to the CDs themselves that I design and print myself. I opted to not do this because I have no way to be sure the label itself won't peel up and gum up my computer or someone else's. I am primarily a Mac user, so I do not have a "tray" to put the CD in. On the Macs I've been using, there is a slot that sort of sucks the CD into it. Get somethign stuck in there and you'll never get it out.
This hasn't been a huge issue, like my ongoing issue with memorabilia, which I still haven't fully resolved, btw. (I just tried something new recently and that didn't work either.) More like a niggling little tickle in the back of my head, especially when I come across a random photo CD mixed in with my music CDs or in my photo storage box.
So! I had a brainstorm the other day, which came partly from the use of an archiving concept in organizing my digital photo files. I guess those ideas have been on my mind.
This is not a new idea. In fact, I've heard it before in terms of other file management, but I did not apply it to my photo CDs. Maybe it did not seem it would work for me at those times. So again, this might seem so simple as to bring up the DUH! again, but I was glad to come up with it.
My idea was just to label the physical CDs themselves numerically, and then use a Finding Aid to keep track of the contents.
If you've ever gone to a public library and used their catalog (whether at a computer terminal or on cards in drawers), you have used a Finding Aid. It's a centralized repository for information on objects, which is not physically connected to the objects. An inventory list, a catalog, a shelf list. If you move your house and pack your belongings up in boxes, you might have created a list of the contents of each box and then taped the list to each box. Well, instead of that, try just numbering the boxes, then making a separate list of all the numbers, with the contents there, and keeping the list with you to refer to. Like that.
In practice, I just started with the few photo CDs I had laying around on a table by my computer. I started with #001 written on one with Sharpie permanent marker (see photo). I figure I might have more than 100 Cds someday, but I think by the time I get to 1000 CDs might be obsolete entirely.
Then I created a separate document on my computer for the Finding Aid. I am using an Excel spreadsheet, but anything where you can create a table will work. In my spreadsheet, I put the number in one column, the date of the contents in another, and then the description.
Now a description can be very very detailed because the beauty of a Finding Aid is, there are no space restrictions on information. A Finding Aid would work great as a way to keep track of journaling or memories you have about photos or memorabilia. Heck, if you ever create a scrapbook that shows photos of objects (say, in a collection) that are important to you, and includes information about the objects, that is a kind of a Finding Aid.
This is what museums do as well. You certainly can't put all the information about that 1200 year old red clay pot dug up in an archaological site on said pot itself. So the museum puts a small, unobtrusive number somewhere on the object, and that number connects to the information in the archives or museum records.
So far I am loving this method. Mainly because I did not have to gather every single photo CD I own in one spot, order them, and start at #1. Nope, I just started with whatever ones I had laying around. As I find CDs, I put them in my computer to double check what is on them. Then I look at my phot folders and make sure I have everything on my computer (believe it or not, I have found pictures I did not have). I assign them a number. I write the number somewhere on them in Sharpie - generally somewhere in the middle so I can see the number if the CD is in a paper sleeve. If the CD really doesn't have anything else written on it, I will also add a short note of the date and what is on it. This information doesn't have to be complete; it's just a memory jog.
I go to the spreadsheet I have and I put in the information -- number, date, what it contains. If the CD spans various years, that's ok. I can add as many rows in the spreadsheet as I need. If I am looking for a particular CD, I can search my file for a keyword, and see the number.
Right now I am not adding in the physical location of the CD, because as I find them I am gathering them together on my desk. I'll find a place to put them when I have more than a couple dozen on hand.
I also like this method because the CDs don't have to be "consistent". They don't have to look alike, be stored in the same kind of sleeve, be written on in the same spot, or be stored in the same physical location.
I might find later this doesn't work for me, especially when I try and USE the Finding Aid. I plan to print it out and stick it in the box where I want to physically collect all my CDs. That will have to be updated periodically, because this is an ongoing collection and I am actively adding to it. But... not every day, or every month. I might get 4 CDs per year to add, or less.
And I like that I can maintain all the CDs that have my family and friends' handwriting on them, as they are, and still keep track of what is ON them.
Mostly this method has quieted down that niggling little thing in the back of my brain. When that happens, I know it's good.
Photo 1: "Organizing Photos." Chez Larsson Weblog. 23 July 2008. LINK
Photo 2: Some of my various photo CDs. Taken by me. 2011.
Photo 3: Photo of numbering system used on projectile point from the Rust Collection. Logan Museum of Anthropology. Beloit, WI. Taken by me. 2008.