Defining Digital Philately

Fran Adams

My philatelic bookshelf is never wide enough for the number of reference books I aspire to. Binders with magazine cuttings don’t fit there and it never fails that some articles end up in the recesses of a bottom drawer, never to be found when needed. The question becomes: “How can I maintain a digital philatelic reference, with as much information as possible included, for a collecting interest?”

Over the past few years, I’ve been working with digital exhibits and as an outgrowth of that, digitizing articles of interest seemed a logical thing to do in attempting to assemble an electronic reference for each interest area. Early efforts didn’t work; a growing stable of electronic data became an organizational problem — not much different than the paper world.

Thinking someone else must have solved the problem, I stumbled through the world of philatelic electronic references looking for guidance as to what a digital philatelic reference should be and how it could be assembled.

As a novice, I decided to review different publishing methods including CDs, web sites, and online exhibits. My conclusion is: There is amazingly little information or consensus on what a digital philatelic reference should look like or how to assemble diverse information to make it reasonably useful, but mainly conveniently available electronically. I’ve likely missed something and I’ll know as soon as this is published and someone says, “Well, why didn’t you read xyz?”

Let’s start with definitions

In my mind, digital philately is a wide and all encompassing arm of stamp collecting. It can take the form of simple checklists, digital literature, scanning material for expertization purposes, electronic exhibits, web logs (blogs), web sites or any other use of the computer in our hobby as a tool to benefit our collecting habits. A very wide interpretation to be sure.

In a much narrower vein, I’d like to explore using the computer’s power to assemble information and prepare short studies on subjects and perhaps even expand those studies into full-blown digital philatelic references as additional information is added. The result is a collection of information which is useful for a number of the purposes above as well as a teaching tool. It makes sense that this digital philatelic reference tool be classified as literature.

A digital philatelic study (DPS) is therefore a short work on a specific facet of a subject and a digital reference is more akin to an encyclopedia on the subject.

A recent development in this arena is a competition sponsored by the New York based ‘Mega-Event’ for 2006 and 2007. The ‘Mega-Event’ defines the term Digital Philatelic Study as: “A DPS is an electronic file or set of files that tells a philatelic story, such as the change from traditional to pictorial designs in British Caribbean Colonies, the Pony Express, or mail from the Crimean war. It combines elements of journal articles, exhibits, and PowerPoint presentations into a final electronic presentation form (i.e., PowerPoint file, PDF file, etc.).

Like an article, the primary focus is on the story as it is told, but, like an exhibit or PowerPoint presentation, the emphasis is placed on the illustrations with the text as supplementary.

”Although that definition reflects both studies (mail from the Crimean War) and references (the Pony Express) in my opinion, it’s close enough to my end goal with two exceptions: (1) Illustrations and text should be reasonably balanced and (2) I want to include background data, checklists, maps, etc. beyond what may typically be found in the DPS examples I’ve seen so far.

Some DPS examples resemble exhibits and others don’t; it’s a matter of personal taste or final objective as to the format and content. Examples of previous DPS submissions to the ‘Mega-Event’ can be found online at the American Stamp Dealer Association (ASDA) Web site. Using the ‘Mega-Event’ DPS rules, the overall structure, purpose and components for a digital philatelic study/reference are now better defined.

Keep in mind that per ‘Mega-Event’ rules, a DPS doesn’t have to be a one person show. The power of comprehensiveness lies in collaboration between collectors of the same area, each contributing to the whole work.

Another interesting facet is the ability to include material you do not own to demonstrate points you might not be able to demonstrate using only material from your personal collection. This option opens up a world of possibilities allowing research and knowledge to be presented without steep material acquisition costs.

What references did I find?

The most directly associated guideline I’ve found on electronic formatted philatelic documents is the current Mega-Event Digital Philatelic Study “DPS Rules and Entry Form“. A second source with some how-to information on using FlipAlbum software is “Self-Publishing on a Dime” by Peter Elias (Philatelic Communicator, First Quarter 2005 – Writer’s Unit 30). A third along electronic lines (web sites) is “Let’s Get Visual!” by Albert W. Starkweather (Philatelic Communicator, Second Quarter 2006), and finally, albeit not specific to electronic formats, is the American Philatelic Society (APS) guideline for “Judging Philatelic Literature” found on the APS Web site. End of article marker.

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Posted in digital philately

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