Hand Props General Categories

WFair

Member
Joined
Oct 3, 2011
Location
Houston, Texas, United States
This summer I will be embarking on a complete overhaul of my props storage. I intend to pull it all out, categorize it, photograph it, bin it (in clear plastic), and put most of it back in an organized manner. If you have a well-organized prop inventory, would you mind sharing the general categories or keywords that you have grouped your props into? I am looking for a base list so that when I start pulling it all down, I have some general idea of how many piles I may be starting with. Thanks!
 

bobgaggle

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 19, 2007
Location
Philadelphia, PA
Kind of depends on how you want to organize in the first place. I've seen 2 general types of prop storage. Usually everyone groups things by type (all cameras go here, all chairs go there). But once place I worked organized by era/style. So all the 80's era stuff went over there, and all the medieval peasant stuff went over there. Made it pretty easy when the show was set in x time period...
 

Colin

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 23, 2015
Location
Eastern Massachusetts
Kind of depends on how you want to organize in the first place. I've seen 2 general types of prop storage. Usually everyone groups things by type (all cameras go here, all chairs go there). But once place I worked organized by era/style. So all the 80's era stuff went over there, and all the medieval peasant stuff went over there. Made it pretty easy when the show was set in x time period...
This is a really fun way to pull a show when the stock is extensive and comprehensive in each period, and when the shop is staffed with consistently knowledgeable people. If any of those aren't the case, then you wind up with things being re-stocked in a completely wrong area, or you're parsing out lots of tiny areas for the one or four items you have from 1890s Russia and it just gets silly. I tend towards organizing objects by type and then within the type I organize by chronology and/or geography when sensible. So there's a mantel clock shelf with the oldest ones on the left and the newest on the right, and there's a file cabinet with paper goods organized by period and then country/language, and so on. If someone screws up the organization this way the item is probably close to where it belongs in the room because most anyone can put a clock with the other clocks even if they don't know when and where it came from.
 

WFair

Member
Joined
Oct 3, 2011
Location
Houston, Texas, United States
I don't think we have enough props...or enough manpower...to keep this organized by time period (though that sounds amazing for ease-of-use when pulling for productions). I need a base list of general categories. I am actually planning to use tags in a database to apply multiple of these descriptors to each item to make searching easier. Many of these are categories for storage, but others (like "vintage") are just for tagging purposes. Thus-far, here is what I have come up with off the top of my head (without looking in my props storage):

  • 40s
  • 50s
  • 60s
  • 70s
  • 80s
  • 90s
  • animals
  • antique
  • art
  • baked goods
  • bedding
  • books
  • bottles
  • cameras
  • candles
  • cleaning
  • clocks
  • cups
  • exterior
  • fabric
  • flower
  • foliage
  • food
  • fruit
  • gun
  • home decor
  • indoor
  • jewelry
  • kitsch
  • knife
  • lights
  • linens
  • luggage
  • money
  • musical instruments
  • oddities
  • office
  • painted
  • pillows
  • plant
  • radio
  • smoking
  • sporting goods
  • sword
  • tableware
  • telephones
  • vegetables
  • vintage
  • weapons
  • wooden

What are some major ones I am missing?
 
Last edited:

Colin

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 23, 2015
Location
Eastern Massachusetts
It is hard to say what other specific terms you need without looking at your stock, and without knowing which of these terms are for database tags versus physical organization (I see a ton of redundancy in your list). If I were you I'd find a big open space, pull everything out and start making piles. That's the only way to not waste your time.

Thinking as I used to when I was a props master, a show's setting and scene design often calls for an entire kitchen to be propped, or a dining room, or parlor, or patio, or office, so beginning the stock organization according to what type of room/space the item would likely go in usually makes the most sense. When I start pulling a show, especially when it is a complete, realistic, fully dressed box set type of deal, I want to walk into one area of my stock, plant my feet, and start grabbing things off shelves in a sort of stream of consciousness manner. Some might be practical props on my preliminary props list, and others might just be dressing items that I think will be useful. I want to see at once all the possibilities for that kitchen, and so on. So I think it is time to pause your planning and begin physically pulling things out and making these types of collections that will naturally localize all or most of the props for each common setting (those settings, again, will usually be rooms in a building, plus patio, garden and forest outside). Maybe your stock is already somewhat organized in this manner so it won't take long. Once that's done you will have an easier time figuring out what level(s) of granularity you need in the more detailed organization, which will come down to what your specific stock contains, and what your specific storage situation is. A database is great, but it has to serve the practical, physical, fundamentally hands-on process of propping a show.

There are some typical PITA props that are time consuming to keep making or shopping for, and/or are easy to lose, or there never seem to be enough or enough variety of. Those might be more important to keep very organized. I bet you'll find it useful to get more detailed about paper goods (newspapers organized by brand and B&W vs color, telegrams, legal documents, checkbooks, you already have money but what kind?) and matching coffee/tea/place settings for specific numbers of people, and serving trays, and really anything that matches - furniture pieces, lamps... So those might be the types of things for which really granular data is useful to record so you don't spend lots of time searching for something you don't have or buying/fabricating something you already have.

Are you planning to actually give every item an inventory #? I personally wouldn't go that far with most things - just use the database to point people to the right aisle or shelf/bay. But with things of special value, and also with weapons that should be access controlled, I would consider giving the items unique identifiers in the database and physically on the object. Fountain pens, maybe not.
 

RonHebbard

Well-Known Member
Premium Member
Joined
Jun 12, 2004
Location
Waterdown, ON, CA
I don't think we have enough props...or enough manpower...to keep this organized by time period (though that sounds amazing for ease-of-use when pulling for productions). I need a base list of general categories. I am actually planning to use tags in a database to apply multiple of these descriptors to each item to make searching easier. Many of these are categories for storage, but others (like "vintage") are just for tagging purposes. Thus-far, here is what I have come up with off the top of my head (without looking in my props storage):

  • 40s
  • 50s
  • 60s
  • 70s
  • 80s
  • 90s
  • animals
  • antique
  • art
  • baked goods
  • bedding
  • books
  • bottles
  • cameras
  • candles
  • cleaning
  • clocks
  • cups
  • exterior
  • fabric
  • flower
  • foliage
  • food
  • fruit
  • gun
  • home decor
  • indoor
  • jewelry
  • kitsch
  • knife
  • lights
  • linens
  • luggage
  • money
  • musical instruments
  • oddities
  • office
  • painted
  • pillows
  • plant
  • radio
  • smoking
  • sporting goods
  • sword
  • tableware
  • telephones
  • vegetables
  • vintage
  • weapons
  • wooden

What are some major ones I am missing?
@WFair Calendars? Often useful for discreetly masking a glaring spot on a wall.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
I don't think we have enough props...or enough manpower...to keep this organized by time period (though that sounds amazing for ease-of-use when pulling for productions). I need a base list of general categories. I am actually planning to use tags in a database to apply multiple of these descriptors to each item to make searching easier. Many of these are categories for storage, but others (like "vintage") are just for tagging purposes. Thus-far, here is what I have come up with off the top of my head (without looking in my props storage):

  • 40s
  • 50s
  • 60s
  • 70s
  • 80s
  • 90s
  • animals
  • antique
  • art
  • baked goods
  • bedding
  • books
  • bottles
  • cameras
  • candles
  • cleaning
  • clocks
  • cups
  • exterior
  • fabric
  • flower
  • foliage
  • food
  • fruit
  • gun
  • home decor
  • indoor
  • jewelry
  • kitsch
  • knife
  • lights
  • linens
  • luggage
  • money
  • musical instruments
  • oddities
  • office
  • painted
  • pillows
  • plant
  • radio
  • smoking
  • sporting goods
  • sword
  • tableware
  • telephones
  • vegetables
  • vintage
  • weapons
  • wooden

What are some major ones I am missing?
 

seanandkate

Well-Known Member
Fight Leukemia
Joined
Aug 29, 2008
Location
Stouffville, Ontario
I don't think we have enough props...or enough manpower...to keep this organized by time period (though that sounds amazing for ease-of-use when pulling for productions). I need a base list of general categories. I am actually planning to use tags in a database to apply multiple of these descriptors to each item to make searching easier. Many of these are categories for storage, but others (like "vintage") are just for tagging purposes. Thus-far, here is what I have come up with off the top of my head (without looking in my props storage):

  • 40s
  • 50s
  • 60s
  • 70s
  • 80s
  • 90s
  • animals
  • antique
  • art
  • baked goods
  • bedding
  • books
  • bottles
  • cameras
  • candles
  • cleaning
  • clocks
  • cups
  • exterior
  • fabric
  • flower
  • foliage
  • food
  • fruit
  • gun
  • home decor
  • indoor
  • jewelry
  • kitsch
  • knife
  • lights
  • linens
  • luggage
  • money
  • musical instruments
  • oddities
  • office
  • painted
  • pillows
  • plant
  • radio
  • smoking
  • sporting goods
  • sword
  • tableware
  • telephones
  • vegetables
  • vintage
  • weapons
  • wooden

What are some major ones I am missing?
Sometimes too many categories makes it MORE difficult to find things. I would combine similar things: Combine weapons with swords and knives and guns. Combine flower with foliage and plant. Combine linen and fabric. And so on. You can certainly break things up into their various general areas, but this might be better for "at a glance" finding things.