Add Relationships to an Item

This page explains how to add relationships to an item by walking through an example.

To learn what relationships are, read the section on getting started with relationships.


To try the steps in this example using items in your own collection, open this page on your phone or tablet so that you can follow along without having to switch between browser windows.

Three basic steps

There are just three steps for adding relationships:

  • Choose a primary item to add relationships to
  • Gather the items in your collection that are related to the primary item
  • Add the relationships

Choose the primary item

The primary item simply means the item to which you are going to relate other items. This example uses a person as the primary item, but the process is the same for adding relationships to a building, boat, event, organization or anything else in your collection.

Once you know who or what you want to relate other items to, you'll need to create a
Reference Item to serve as a digital stand-in for that person or thing. We'll do this in step 2 below.

In this example, our person is a woman named Mary O'Brien. The metadata for Mary's Reference Item looks like this:

Reference item for a person

You can add much more information to a Reference Item than appears above, but what's shown is all that's required and it only takes a minute to create. Don't worry if you don't really get what Reference Items are all about – they'll make sense by the end of this page.

Suppose for a moment that instead of using the Digital Archive, you were making a scrapbook page for Mary O'Brien. First you would clear off your work area, and then you would lay out everything you have about her: photos, a newspaper clipping, and information about her husband Donald.

Follow the steps below to do the same thing using the Digital Archive.

1 – Clear your Flagged Items list

The Flagged Items list is your work area. To empty the list:

  • Go to the Flagged Items page by clicking the Flagged Items link that appears on the banner of every page under the search box
  • On the Flagged Items page, click the Clear all link
2 – Create a Reference Item for the primary item
  • Follow the steps to add a new item
  • Set the Type, Subject, and Title as shown in the previous section
3 – Find items that are related to the primary item

Search your Digital Archive for photos, articles, or other items that are associated with your primary item. The screenshot shows results in Grid View of a keyword search for mary o'brien.

The first result, item 15143, is Mary's Reference Item. The second and fourth items are photos she appears in. The third item is a newspaper clipping about her. The last item is a Reference Item for her husband Donald (see details in the second screenshot below). Note that the thumbnails for Reference Items have a double blue border to distinguish them from other items.

Results of a keyword search for mary o'brien

Reference item for Mary

The Reference Item for Mary's husband Donald

The screenshot below shows the details for Donald Worcester's Reference Item which has a PDF attached to it. A PDF can contain a gold mine of keywords. It was because of the presence of the keywords mary o'brien in the PDF, that item 13249 came up in the search results above.

Reference item for Donald

4 – View or flag related items

As you find items that you want to relate to your primary item, either view them or flag them.
When you view or flag an item, it gets added to your flagged items list.

  • View an item by clicking its title in the search results, or
  • Flag an item by clicking the little gray flag next to its item number – the flag turns blue

The screenshot above shows that the five items have been flagged.

5 – Go to the Flagged Items page

Now that you have found and flagged the items you want to relate to Mary:

  • Go to the Flagged Items page to see them
  • Click the Remove link on any items that may have crept in while you were searching
  • Click the Relationships link on the primary item (Mary's Reference Item)

The screenshot below shows the items that got flagged in step 3 above.

Relationships link

Add the relationships

You've now gathered all the items that are related to Mary. Now it's time to add relationships.

6 – Go to the Relationships Editor

You add, edit, or remove relationships using the Relationships Editor.

To get to the editor from the Flagged Items page:

  • Click the Relationships link for Mary's Reference item (see the pointing finger at the bottom of the screenshot above).
  • The Relationships Editor displays as shown in the screenshot below.

The page tells you that Mary's reference item #15143 has no related items.

Relationships link

7 – Relate photos to the primary item

The page above shows that for the depicted by relationship (in the dropdown list), two flagged items have an Add button to indicate that they are eligible to be added as related items. They are the two photos in which Mary appears – those photos depict Mary.

Click the Add button for one of the photos. When the add completes, click the Add button for the other photo. The screenshot below shows that item 15143 now has two related items.

Relationships link

The two photos you just added still appear in the flagged items list, but their Add buttons are now disabled. No other items in the list have Add buttons because none depict Mary. If you like, you can remove the photos from the list by clicking their Remove links.

8 – Relate a Reference Item to the primary item

Now let's relate Mary to her husband:

  • In the dropdown list, change depicted by to married to
  • An Add button will appear next to Donald Worcester's Reference Item
  • Click the Add button

After relating Donald, Mary now has three relationships as shown below.

Relationships link

9 – Relate a document to the primary item

Finally, we'll add a relationship for Mary's engagement announcement:

  • In the dropdown list, change married to to mentioned in
  • An Add button will appear next to the announcement

The screenshot below shows what happend when mentioned in was chosen for the relationship. Note that the Add button for Donald's Reference Item became enabled again. That's because that Reference Item is eligible to be related to the primary item in an about/mentioned in relationship, even though it might not be approrpriate. You have to use your knowledge of the items and how they relate to each other in deciding which ones to relate. Just because there's an Add button does not mean that the relationship make sense. To understand this better,
learn how the Relationships Editor page works.

Relationships link

To complete this example, the screenshot below shows the effect of clicking the Add button for the wedding announcement. Mary's Reference Item is now related to four other items.

Relationships link

10 – See what you accomplished
Click the View Public Page button to see Mary's related items the way a visitor to your organization's Digital Archive will see them.
Relationships link

Hopefully you now understand why Reference Items are so important. They serve as the "glue" that binds other items together. They also provide a place to add information about a person or thing as it becomes available. For example, if you later learn some details about Mary's life, you can add them to the item's Description field or attach them in a PDF file. If you get a new photo of Mary, you can add it to your Digital Archive and relate it to this item very quickly.