Is it time to rejuvenate the search option for your collections? The Anglican Church of Canada Archives launches a new search portal to provide better access to a wider selection of records of national significance.

by Jonathan Jacobsen Monday, August 14, 2017 8:45 AM

The Archives of the Anglican Church of Canada has provided web search access to some of their collections for many years, but it was time for a refresh to keep up with current expectations. Situations like theirs are all too common, with issues such as:

  • each of several databases had to be searched separately, one at a time;
  • the separate search interfaces were dated, with a restrictive searching syntax;
  • the graphic design no longer matched the main website;
  • the layout was not responsive for viewing on tablets or phones;
  • there was a desire to put up additional content; and
  • the server that was home to all the software and data was due for replacement as both the hardware and operating system were aged. 

Undertaking these updates was a somewhat daunting prospect for the archives staff, with little time or experience to work on the necessary changes. However, Andornot has worked with the Anglican Church for many years, and over several months developed a plan for the updates that fit with both Archives and IT staff requirements. The result is a modern, functional new single search portal that will be of benefit to anyone interested in the records of the church.  

The new site is now available at http://archives.anglican.ca

Rather than simply migrate everything to a new server as-is, the archives and the Church's IT staff took this as an opportunity to make substantial improvements. To help fit the work into everyone's busy schedules, the project was divided into two phases, making each half more manageable.

In the first phase, Andornot provided a methodology to help staff analyze their multiple existing Inmagic DB/TextWorks databases and determine data clean-up options. We worked with IT staff to provision a new server with a fresh installation of the latest version of DB/TextWorks. Databases were migrated, client workstations updated, menu screens linked, and the system otherwise made ready for use. This provides the archives with a stable, up-to-date, clean system that should run well for many years to come. 

In the second phase, we built a new search interface using our Andornot Discovery Interface. The new system allows users to explore and research archival descriptions, official statements, press releases, journal articles and photographs. Additional databases managed in DB/TextWorks may be added over time.  

The software is hosted on the Church's servers but during the design phase we hosted it locally to simplify making modifications during the rounds of feedback, and reducing the involvement needed from IT. We also offer long-term hosting for clients who don't have their own servers or the staff and resources to manage them.

The new site design is clean and simple and now coordinates with the look and feel of the main Anglican Church website. In addition, the seamless, single search across the formerly separate databases is both easy to use and encourages serendipitous discovery of information from unexpected sources.

“The General Synod Archives has already seen many researchers using the new search engine and requesting information and photographs. We have received compliments on the layout and information included, as well as the benefits of having each entry tagged so that we know exactly what the researcher is requesting without having to redo the search. The new search engine has made it a lot easier for us to make our photographs available for research and selection. Searching by rough dates and being able to break them down using the decade facet produces faster results. Indeed the various facets for refining the search have been a bonus.”

-- the archivists of the General Synod Archives, Anglican Church of Canada

As with all our Andornot Discovery Interface projects, this site for the Anglican Archives now provides the best possible search experience, and includes the following features we now regard as essential in a modern search interface:

  • Automatic spelling corrections and search suggestions.
  • Relevancy ranked results with additional sort options.
  • Facets to easily narrow or refine a search.
  • Easy sharing of records or photos on social media such as Facebook and Pinterest.
  • Add to list option to select records.
  • Responsive layout for use with tablets and smart phones.
  • Accessibility for users with disabilities.

We're always available to discuss upgrades to your DB/TextWorks-based systems, or enhanced search interfaces for any collection using one of the several software systems we support. Send us a link to your current search interface and we'll get back to you with our evaluation! 

Arnprior Archives' Virtual Exhibit: 150 Years of Living Off the Land

by Jonathan Jacobsen Thursday, August 10, 2017 5:27 PM

As part of the country-wide celebrations of Canada's 150th birthday, the Arnprior & McNab/Braeside Archives undertook a project to celebrate 150 years of local agriculture, harvesting, production and similar activities in their area. Entitled "150 Years of Living Off the Land", the project involved research and extensive interviews with McNab/Braeside families who are producing maple syrup, honey, alpaca wool products, and vegetables, from large to very small scale producers.

The results were assembled into a virtual and physical exhibit that explores the connection between what settlers produced in the early days in the Township and what local producers are making today. Living successfully off the land means different things today than it did before confederation. 

"Learning that many years ago there was a cheese factory in Glasgow Station, not far from the current Municipal Hall, is information not many remember. Archives are the windows to our past which created the present and future." -- Tom Peckett - Mayor of McNab Braeside

The exhibit is available at https://www.adarchives.org/exhibits/150-years-of-living-off-the-land/

[A page in the exhibit with photos, quotes, interview clips and transcripts.]

The initial reaction from the community has been very positive, with comments in a guest book such as "fabulous, neat work, thanks!" and "great exhibit - very interesting".

Andornot worked with archives staff to provide a web application for mounting the virtual exhibit. Using the Umbraco Content Management System, we developed page layouts, colour choices, and features to play back the recorded interviews, all within the existing archives website.

This system may be used by the archives for more exhibits in the future, by re-using the page layouts and other work done for this project.

[The project team at the launch on Canada Day of "150 Years of Living Off the Land". From left to right: Ella Hartwick, Laurie Dougherty, Matt Regan and Dianne Brearley.]

Andornot offers a variety of options for mounting virtual exhibits, using Umbraco or the Omeka system available through our Digital History Hub site. Contact us with your ideas for an exhibit and we'll help you choose the right system and walk you through getting it going.

How to use record skeletons in Inmagic Genie to save time when cataloguing

by Jonathan Jacobsen Wednesday, August 09, 2017 8:15 AM

Inmagic DB/TextWorks has long had a popular feature called 'record skeletons.' They're a great way to save and add consistency and accuracy to data entry. 

Here's how they work: Suppose you're cataloguing a group of materials that all share some data in common. This could be as simple as books, written in English and published in 2017. Or it could be a series all with the same title, author, publisher, date, subjects, etc. and only the subtitle or volume number changes.

In both of these cases, when filling in a data entry form, you'd be filling in some fields with the same values over and over again.

Why repeat work when there are tools to save time?

The Duplicate Record feature in DB/TextWorks is handy when you have the first record finished and want to duplicate it. But this copies all the fields, and you then need to change or remove fields that are different in the next item you're cataloguing.

This is where 'record skeletons' are useful. A record skeleton is a set of values to populate in select fields in a new record, such as:

Material Type = Book

Language = English

Publication Date = 2017

Long-time DB/Text users are well versed in these features, but what if you manage your library with the Inmagic Genie system?

While record skeletons are not a feature of Genie itself, there's a reasonably easy way to add them, using browser extensions know as 'form fillers'. These tools work just like a record skeleton, storing default values for fields, but within your browser, rather than in Genie itself. So, you might have one profile (a set of fields) for books, another for journals, another for internal corporate reports, etc.

When cataloguing an item in Genie, you pretty much just just click on your form filler extension and choose a profile and the appropriate fields will be filled in. 2 clicks and you're done!

To set up a profile, you can populate the fields you want in the skeleton, then save the profile. You can also, in some cases, access an editor, such as shown below, for fine-grained control.

A form filler could be used in any module in Genie. Orders would be another good place, for example.

Of course, it's most useful if you have many similar items to catalogue. For more unique items, there's no time savings over just cataloguing as per usual, one record and one field at a time.

Depending on the form filler you choose, you may want or need to consolidate all your Catalogue fields into a single tab (the default is 4 tabs: Biblio 1, Biblio 2, Physical and Serials) so that the form filler can populate them all at once. This is easily done by editing the MyEditScreens.config XML file in Genie. 

Since the different profiles you set up are stored in your browser, if you have colleagues who also catalogue, you'd want to export the profile from the form filler and import it into their browser. You might store a master exported profile on your network somewhere so that anyone who needs it can get it. Many of the form filler extensions have export and import ability.

One form filler extension we recommend is Autofill for Chrome (shown above).

Andornot would be happy to help you select, install and configure a form filler extension for your browser and your Genie instance. Just mailto:#mce_temp_url# and we'll tell you more.

How to browse linked fields with the new Link Field Box in DB/TextWorks version 16

by Jonathan Jacobsen Friday, August 04, 2017 10:33 AM

Inmagic DB/TextWorks version 16, released in July 2017, provides you with several great new features for data management. This blog post is one of a series providing details of how to take advantage of these new features.

This blog post is about the new ability to browse Link fields in different ways.

A Link field in a textbase is one which links to another field in another textbase. An example would be a database used to track orders, with a Supplier field. Rather than using a validation list of supplier names to choose from with this field, you might instead link it to a separate Suppliers database, where you can track the supplier's name, address, phone number, email address, website, your account rep and their contact info, your account number, etc. All databases should have a unique number / ID field (e.g. in case you have multiple suppliers with the same or similar names) so you may have a RecordID field in your Suppliers database, as an Automatic Number field, containing unique, sequential numbers.

Previously, when you wanted to put data in a Link field you could only browse the field to which it was linked. In the above example, you would most likely link to the RecordID field in the Suppliers database. So in your Orders database, in the Supplier field, you'd have just the Supplier RecordID (e.g. 12345). This is great for ensuring Order records are linked to the correct Supplier, but hard to use to select the right supplier.

With this new feature in DB/TextWorks version 16, you can keep this link to the Supplier's RecordID field, but browse the Supplier Name field (or any other) to select the right supplier for an order record. This is the best of both worlds: it helps preserve data integrity and follows best practices for relational database design, but allows data entry staff to more easily select the correct records.

In our work with DB/TextWorks, such as in our Andornot Library Kit, we've written javascript and added it to Edit forms to facilitate the above: browsing or searching one field in a linked database, but storing a value from a different field. Now, with this new feature, this is built-in to DB/TextWorks without needing additional scripts.

To use this new feature, follow these simple steps:

1. Bring up an Edit form in the Form Designer in your DB/TextWorks database. Select Add > Form Box > Link Field Box (this is a new entry under Add > Form Box).

2. In the Link Field dialogue, select the field to link to and the field to browse. Be sure to click the Select buttons to record each selection. The image below shows the steps to take in order from 1 to 4.

3. To test the result, create a new record and, with the cursor in the new box on the form, press F3 to browse. In our example, you will be browsing the Supplier Name field, but when you select a supplier, their Record ID will be stored in the Supplier field in the Orders database.

If you need any help with a change like this, please get in touch! We'd be happy to look at this and other changes to your databases that could help you work more efficiently.

How to sort empty values last in DB/TextWorks and WebPublisher PRO search results, with version 16

by Jonathan Jacobsen Thursday, August 03, 2017 7:51 AM

Inmagic DB/TextWorks version 16, released in July 2017, provides you with several great new features for managing data and databases. This blog post is one of a series providing details of how to take advantage of these new features.

This blog post is about the new ability to sort empty fields last in search results.

Suppose you search a bibliographic database and sort the results by publication date, in reverse order, so the most recently published materials appear first. This works very well when every record in the search results has a publication date. However, if a record has no date, as sometimes happens, those "empty" records will appear first in the search results. This tends to be disconcerting to users as it's not often clear why they are first.

This new feature in DB/TextWorks version 16 allows you to sort those records last. This feature can be used in DB/TextWorks and in WebPublisher PRO searches, including in web forms built from our Andornot Starter Kit.

Here's how to apply this sort option to any Report Form in DB/TextWork (a Report Form is typically used to display many records at once, usually in a brief format):

  1. Open your database in DB/TextWorks version 16.
  2. Open a form that has an existing sort order, or one you want to add it to, in the Form Designer with Display > Design Form.
  3. Select Report Options > Compulsory Sort.
  4. Note the new tick box for sorting empty fields last. Select the field you wish to apply this to, add it to the Sort Fields list on the right, and tick the Sort Empties Last option.

If you have a web interface built by Andornot using our Andornot Starter Kit, you can follow the same steps above to apply this to a Web Form. It's most suitable for something like a WebBriefDate form, where results are sorted by Date.

You can also use this new Sort Empties Last feature with reports that have no sort order applied yet, on-the-fly, by searching, then selecting Display > Sort Report and choosing this sort option (step 4 above).

Contact Andornot for help applying this new feature to your databases, or for a free assessment of your databases and suggestions to use them more efficiently or in new ways. We’d be happy to chat with you!

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