SPS Negative Logbooks Instructions

Thank you for being a digital volunteer! It’s very important that this work is performed in a standardized manner, so please make the effort to read and follow these instructions.


How the Process Works




How the process works



We seek to balance quality and speed with our transcription process - which of course is still evolving as we continue to develop this service. At the moment, this is how our system works:

1) Anyone can start transcribing or add to a transcription of a document.

2) Once a volunteer decides they’ve “finished” and they’re ready for review, a different volunteer (who must have an account on the site) can review the transcription and either send it back for edits, or complete the transcription.

3) The finished transcript is sent to the Smithsonian, where it may be used immediately, or undergo additional work.

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The Smithsonian Photographic Services Negative Logbooks Project


This project is transcribing Smithsonian Photographic Services (SPS) Negative Logbooks; these books catalog images of events, exhibits, artifacts, and copies of archival photographs captured at the Smithsonian over a thirty year period (1971-1999). You’ll transcribe data from fifteen columns, row by row (or line by line). Each image is a photograph of two logbook pages. Please read the instructions below for details of how to transcribe each column.


Navigating the SPS Negative Logbook Page


To navigate the SPS Negative Logbook page, please transcribe columns from left to right, labeled according to the column title. Adjust the size of the image window to help you focus on each row as you transcribe. Be sure to type in or select all the information you can for the fields in each section before you check the box at the bottom that reads “Complete and Mark for Review.”

NOTE: You will not transcribe data from the following columns:

  • Recorded Date

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    Column Instructions


    This project is transcribing fifteen columns, row by row (or line by line). When you enter data in the bottom-most row, a new row will be generated.

    Columns 1 and 2: Neg # (start) and Neg # (stop)

    The “Neg # (start)” and “Neg # (stop)”or Negative # columns list the number or range of numbers assigned to one or a series of images. The first two digits refer to the year the photograph was assigned a number (Ex. 73-4500 was assigned a number in 1973). The second number is sequential. (Ex. 73-4500, 73-4501, 73-4502, etc.) Use Column 1 for individual images or for the beginning of an image range. Use Column 2 to note the last number in a range. (Ex. 73-8122-24 is the negative range of 73-8122 thru 73-8124 and becomes 73-8122 in Column 1 and 73-8124 in Column 2.) These numbers are not necessarily unique. If a photo shoot was captured in multiple formats, those formats are listed as separate entries with identical negative numbers.

    Column 3: “Description”

    The “Description” or Description or Caption column describes the contents of the photo shoot. This field can be transcribed directly, with the following exceptions:

  • Where a “ (ditto mark) appears, please copy the data from the record above.
  • If an entry has “Restricted” included in the description, record that information in Column 4.
  • If an entry has notes about the film, record that information in Column 5.
  • Column 4: “Restrictions”

    Use the “Restrictions” column to make note of when an item is listed as “Restricted” in the Caption/Description. For restricted items, list the entry as “Restricted” in Column 4. For non-restricted items, leave this column blank.

    Column 5: “Description Notes”

    Use the “Description Notes” or Caption/Description Notes column to transcribe any notes included in the Caption/Description. A common thing to see that should be transcribed in the Notes is “NIF” with a date. This means that the film is no longer on file. Other examples of notes might be cross-reference information about related film.

    Column 6: “Work Order #”

    The “Work Order #” or Work Order Number column contains information about the work order number assigned to the photo shoot. This field can be transcribed directly. If multiple work order numbers are recorded for a set of items, include all numbers separated by a comma. Where a “ (ditto mark) appears, please copy the data from the record above.

    Column 7: “Requester”

    Column 7 designates the Client or Requestor and the column contains information about the person who requested the photo shoot. This field can be transcribed directly. Where a “ (ditto mark) appears, please copy the data from the record above.

    Column 8: “Department”

    Column 8 describes the "Department," or which unit or department requested a photo shoot. Data in this field is usually an acronym or in abbreviated form. This field can be transcribed directly. Where a “ (ditto mark) appears, please copy the data from the record above.

    Column 9: “Photog”

    In Column 9, you’ll transcribe details of the “Photogr” or photographer assigned to the photo shoot. Data in this field usually contains the initials of the photographer. If multiple photographers are listed for a set of items, include all sets of initials separated by a comma. This field can be transcribed directly. Where a “ (ditto mark) appears, please copy the data from the record above. NOTE: Sometimes this column appears after the “Date” column. Please record the data in its corresponding field.

    Column 10: “Date”

    The “Date” column contains information about the date of the photo shoot. Dates should be transcribed as MM/DD/YYYY or MM/YYYY. Note that sometimes the entries are ‘backlogged’ slightly and the year the photo was taken may not match the year represented in the negative number. This usually coincides with the new year. For example, items photographed in December might not be assigned a number until January of the following year. Items coming from “STRI” (Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute) often have dates that go back a few years from the date a number was assigned to the film. Where a “ (ditto mark) appears, please copy the data from the record above. NOTE: Sometimes this column appears before the “Photog” column. Please record the data in its corresponding field.

    Column 11: “Amount”

    The “Amount” column contains information about how many items were assigned numbers for a photo shoot. Information contained here should equal the amount of negative numbers assigned to a range. Note that when rolls of film were shot, that information is contained in the “Amount” field and listed either as “rl” or “rls.” This field can be transcribed directly. Where a “ (ditto mark) appears, please copy the data from the record above.

    Column 12: “Film Type”

    The “Film Type” column contains information about the type of film used for the photo shoot and is typically one of four kinds:

  • BW – black and white negative
  • CS – color slide
  • CN – color negative
  • CT - color transparency
  • Transcribe to fit the preferred abbreviation and omit any unnecessary punctuation. For example, “BW” is the preferred abbreviation for black and white negatives and should be substituted for “B/W” or “B.W.” In rare instances the “Film Type” might be listed as “Glass” and can be transcribed as such. Where a “ (ditto mark) appears, please copy the data from the record above.

    Column 13: “Film Size”

    The “Film Size” column contains information about the size of film used for the photo shoot. Be consistent with character spacing. For example, use 35mm not 35 mm or 4x5 not 4 x 5. Where a “ (ditto mark) appears, please copy the data from the record above.

    Column 14: “Photo/Repro”

    The “Photo/Repro” column contains information about whether a photo shoot was original or copy photography. Data in this column is represented by one of three letters or an abbreviation:

  • P (photo) – original photography
  • C (copy) - copy photography
  • R (repro) – reproduction (copy photography)
  • This field can be transcribed directly. Where a “ (ditto mark) appears, please copy the data from the record above.

    Column 15: “Additional Info”

    If there are any annotations or other notes that relate to the whole page, please note that in this column on the first row of data. It can be transcribed directly.

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    Additional Information on Page


    Outside of the specific areas we've asked you to capture in each section, please ignore and do not attempt to capture any additional information on the logbooks.


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