Council documents migration and new search interfaces for the City of Burnaby

by Kathy Bryce Wednesday, January 11, 2017 9:57 AM

Andornot has recently completed a project to assist the City of Burnaby migrate various historical council documents from an outsourced search service to internally hosted websites using the Andornot Discovery Interface (AnDI).  The previous site was organized so that files were Previous systemviewable in a hierarchical structure organized by document types, meeting types and years. 

To permit more administrative control and more  granular searching, Andornot was contracted to create a new Inmagic DB/TextWorks database for selected Commission and Public Hearing documents. DB/TextWorks is used extensively by the City of Burnaby for the behind the scenes data entry for much of the Heritage Burnaby website, as well as for multiple other internal databases.

Boards, Committees and Commissions

Scripts were created to load details of these documents into DB/TextWorks and to extract additional metadata about each document derived from the file structure.  The new website at https://bcc.burnaby.ca/en uses the Andornot Discovery Interface to index this data from DB/TextWorks as well as the full text of the documents. Burnaby_Kingsway_searchIt permits searching and viewing agendas and minutes for past meetings of Boards, Committees and Commissions prior to 2015.  Now when searching a common term like Kingsway which brings up a 100 hits, it is possible to narrow down search results by both the Board, Committee or Commission name and the year.  In addition a snippet of text with the search term highlighted is shown to provide context.  Whereas in the previous system agendas and minutes were separated, PDF’s for both are now presented together.

Bylaws

Bylaws were also migrated from the previous service.  Heritage Burnaby already contains every Bylaw ever adopted by the City of Burnaby from its incorporation in 1892 until present Burnaby_Bylaws_search(amended, defeated, repealed), all of which are maintained in a DB/TextWorks Bylaws database.  However there was the requirement to provide access to just the current and enforceable City of Burnaby Bylaws, some of which are available in consolidated versions.   These consolidated versions were added to the Bylaws database and a separate website at https://bylaws.burnaby.ca/en was developed with options to search; view all bylaws; or pick from an A to Z listing.

Both new websites allow users to re-sort their results, add documents to a list, or share them on social media.

If you are looking for a solution to provide better access to council documents and bylaws, or any other set of documents, contact Andornot to discuss possibilities.

Refresh for the Arnprior & McNab/Braeside Archives website and collections search.

by Kathy Bryce Thursday, December 08, 2016 1:36 PM

The Arnprior & McNab/Braeside Archives (AMBA) is a small community archive outside Ottawa run by a part time archivist, a management board and volunteers.  In 2015 they were faced with several challenges. Their website was very dated looking and over the years the template had not been consistently applied resulting in different menu links and layouts from page to page. Changes with their software vendor meant their interface to search the collections was being hosted in England, and they had no statistics on usage.  It was definitely time for a refresh! They applied for and received a grant from the Documentary Heritage Communities Program (DHCP) funded by Library and Archives Canada (LAC).  Andornot worked with AMBA to scope out and provide a detailed proposal that was submitted with their application.

This was an extensive project that vastly improved the functionality offered to both AMBA on the administrative side, and to the public and researchers through the web. “We are extremely pleased to be able to offer a fresh, new search interface to our researchers. The team at Andornot was able to provide advice and expertise over the planning and development stages to help completely redefine our web presence”. AMBA

2016-03-30_14-16-31   AMBA_Search

Before and after screenshots.

Andornot setup a new website hosted on Andornot servers with a content management system using the open source Umbracosoftware.  A simple new and responsive template was applied that coordinated with the colors of the AMBA logo, and the pages were adjusted to fit the new site navigation.  AMBA can now easily update content on any page themselves, thus allowing them to now regularly add updates for events and current news.

AMBA were using an old version of Inmagic DB/TextWorks.  The software was upgraded to the current version, and descriptions data converted to the latest Andornot Archives Starter Kit. This includes a Research Requests database which AMBA volunteers are using to input details of enquiries received and to better track statistics.

The major upgrade was the creation of a single search capability using the Andornot Discovery Interface (AnDI) covering not only the AMBA archival descriptions but also a large collection of digitized bylaws, PDF’s of virtual exhibits and newspaper columns from a local historian.   The bylaws had already been digitized but were not accessible to researchers.  Fortunately the PDF files had been consistently named, and Andornot was able to extract the bylaw title, number and data from the filename to populate the metadata for each automatically thus saving valuable staff time.  A manual process is now almost complete to rename a small set of the 4,000 files that had typos or other issues. 

As with any project involving thousands of records and images there are always some issues, and we have recently completed adjusting the system to account for the many previously digitized image files which include non web safe characters such as &’s, apostrophes and other punctuation.  For clients embarking on any new digitization project we have guidelines for naming and formatting conventions. The Archives reported that they are “very pleased that the process to load the images has been greatly simplified, as Andornot automatically resizes and watermarks the images” so multiple versions are no longer required.

Many of the early Town of Arnprior bylaws date from the mid 1900’s and are handwritten.  However all the bylaws from 1975 on were run through an OCR process and are now full text searchable, though sometimes the original digitization was of poor quality.   Once a Bylaw or other PDF is retrieved, a snippet of the text is displayed with the search term shown in context.  The user can click to view the PDF which displays the pages with hits highlighted, or can click to download the document.

The new AnDI search interface provides researchers with excellent access to a wealth of historical information available through the Archves, and allows users to create a list of selected records and to share photos on Facebook or Pinterest.  Archives staff are delighted that “the new interface makes it easier for researchers to conduct searches and explore the featured virtual exhibits and resources sections of the website.”

AMBA is hoping to receive more funding in the future to continue to add more digitized documents.  Please contact Andornot if you’d like to discuss how we can help you refresh your site and search capabilities!

Library and Archives Canada announces launch of 2017-2018 funding cycle for Documentary Heritage Communities Program

by Kathy Bryce Monday, October 03, 2016 9:51 AM

Library and Archives Canada has announced the launch of the 2017–2018 funding cycle for the third year of the Documentary Heritage Communities Program (DHCP).

The deadline for applications is January 27th, 2017.  Check out the lists of previous recipientsfor a guide to the type of projects that qualified.  Andornot clients were successful in getting funded in both previous rounds.

This program is a great opportunity for archives, museums, historical societies and other cultural institutions to digitize their collections, develop search engines and virtual exhibits, and other activities that preserve and promote their valuable resources.

The objectives of the program are to:

  • Increase access to, and awareness of Canada's local documentary institutions and their holdings; and
  • Increase the capacity of local documentary heritage institutions to better sustain and preserve Canada's documentary heritage.

The program is aimed at non-governmental organizations specifically, including:

  • Archives;
  • Privately funded libraries;
  • Historical societies;             
  • Genealogical organizations/societies; 
  • Professional Associations; and
  • Museums with an archival component.

As before,businesses, government and government institution (including municipal governments and Crown Corporations), museums without archives, and universities and colleges are not eligible.

Types of projects which would be considered for funding include:

  • Conversion and digitization for access purposes;
  • Conservation and preservation treatment;
  • The development (research, design and production) of virtual and physical exhibitions, including travelling exhibits;
  • Conversion and digitization for preservation purposes;
  • Increased digital preservation capacity (excluding digital infrastructure related to day-to-day activities);
  • Training and workshops that improve competencies and build capacity; and
  • Development of standards, performance and other measurement activities.
  • Collection, cataloguing and access based management; and
  • Commemorative projects.

Two categories of funding available:

  • small projects under $15,000; and
  • large projects up to $100,000.

Further program details, requirements  and application procedures are available at http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/services/documentary-heritage-communities-program/Pages/dhcp-portal.aspx

How can Andornot help?

Andornot has worked with many clients on the types of projects which would qualify for this grant. Some examples are detailed in these blog posts:

We have extensive experience with digitizing documents, books and audio and video materials, and developing systems to manage those collections and make them searchable or presented in virtual exhibits.

Contact us to discuss collections you have and ideas for proposals. We'll do our best to help you obtain funding from the DHCP program!

Discover the fascinating artifacts in the Museum of Health Care collection

by Kathy Bryce Tuesday, August 30, 2016 10:13 AM

The Museum of Health Care based in Kingston, Ontario is home to more than 35,000 artifacts, from surgical tools to laboratory instruments, which bring to life the story of medical care from the 18th century to the present day. The Museum has used the Inmagic DB/TextWorks software for many years to catalog and manage the collection, but was using a very old version and the web search interface was rudimentary and did nothing to showcase the artifacts.

The Museum received grant funding and Andornot was hired to provide updates that both met their administrative needs, and improved accessibility to the collection for the public.   We completely revamped the internal artifacts DB/TextWorks database to current standards by implementing our best practices in database design, adding validation lists and cleaning out unused fields and reports. MHC_search_page

However, the fun part was designing the new search of the collections using our Andornot Discovery Interface (AnDI).  It was hard not to get sidetracked looking at some of the bizarre and scary implements! For example, check out the tools for tooth extraction such as the tooth key from circa 1750. Virtually all the items in the collection have images attached which can be viewed in either a list view alongside details of the item, or in a gallery view for quick browsing.

The main collections search page features a quick search box plus "canned searches" for quick access to the main categories such as Cardiology, Dermatology, Obstetrics etc. There is also a slider of images of featured items showcasing various implements, uniforms, bottles and a medicine chest.

The Museum has captured a wealth of information about each item, all of which is searchable.  Search results can be narrowed down by facets for general category, a more in depth classification and MeSH headings.  There is a date facet, plus facets for where the object was made and the manufacturer if these are known. 

Museums and other heritage institutions may borrow items from the collection for their own exhibits, and they can now easily search, select items and send off a request for an object loan to the Museum.  Museum staff are also using this feature to compile sets of records to send to researchers in a PDF report. 

Records can easily be shared on social media such as Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter and MHC_results_pagePinterest, or details can be emailed to a colleague.  Already, the feedback option has been used to help identify information in a set of photographs, and Museum staff are now using the permalink feature to link back to records in their regular “What is it Wednesday” Facebook posts. The new search interface, as with all our new Andornot sites, is designed for use with mobile phones and tablets as well as desktop computers.

The feedback from the Museum staff and users has been very positive.  “ I truly love the new improved version!” and “we receive numerous praise for the new on-line catalogue and how easy it is to use and find objects”, says Kathy Karkut, Collections Manager. “Thank you for your patience as the Museum organized a server, and for the beautiful end product.” Jenny Stepa, Museum Manager and Program Director. The database is maintained locally at the Museum whilst hosting and maintenance of the web search interface is provided by Andornot.

Take a look at some of our other projects using AnDI and contact us for a demo!

Succession planning and your databases

by Kathy Bryce Tuesday, May 03, 2016 8:45 PM

We’ve heard recently from several long time clients that they are retiring soon or considering a move to another job. Most are concerned about their “legacy” when they leave, and so we have been talking about succession planning with regard to their databases.  Many have been using Inmagic software for many years and know it well.  However for their replacement coming in fresh, it’d be helpful to provide some documentation and background information, especially if there is no overlap and the new person will be faced with learning the software on their own.

Sometimes it’s hard to look at a system from an outsiders perspective especially if “it works fine and has always been that way”. For example, we came across a client recently who used basic everything, i.e. basic query screens, basic reports and basic edit screen.  He regularly needed to work on writing abstracts which often exceeded the default 3 lines provided in a basic edit screen, so he would use the scroll bar up and down to view the contents as he typed.  

image edit-ASK

Basic edit screen

Edit screen from the Andornot Starter Kit with field groupings, boxes sized for contents, added help tips.

It was something he’d never thought about, but he had to admit that creating a new edit screen with the box height set as unlimited made life much, much easier. Basic screens also always list fields in the textbase structure order, but fields may have been added over the years resulting in no logical groupings.  Think how confusing working with basic screens will be to a newcomer to your system!

We therefore suggest you make it easier on your successor by doing a check of the usability of your databases and writing up notes on your infrastructure. This will also be helpful for new IT staff, and if you have to contact Inmagic for support.

  • Which version of the software is installed and what are the serial numbers?  What is the operating system of the server? Where is the software installed and who has access set up to use it?  Are there any older versions of the software that should be uninstalled?
  • Where are all your databases located on the server?  In multiple folders?  Are any restricted to certain staff or have other special permissions? Do they have passwords? Are there any older copies that may have been saved as backups or are the remnants of recover operations?  Search for *.tba or *.cba to check, then delete the duplicate copies now to avoid confusion later. Are there any obsolete or test databases that could be deleted or archived?
  • Are all your database field names clear and unambiguous?  In older versions of DB/TextWorks there was a limit to their length so we’ve seen some pretty cryptic abbreviations!  Are all the fields in use still?
  • Do you have unused report forms or edit screens.  Are they named clearly and consistently?
  • If you have Genie or WebPublisher PRO, where are these installed and what is the web address and full UNC server path? Do you have access to these folders?  If you have DB/Text for SQL, do you have access to the Admin tool? Is the Importer set up for automated import of data?  If so, what is the source and the format?
  • For WebPublisher PRO are there test or unused query screens? Is the data live immediately or is there some script that transfer databases nightly to a webserver? (This can cause much head scratching trying to figure out why changes don’t appear if this workflow is not documented.)
  • If you haven’t upgraded to version 15 or 15.5 yet, note that this requires an upgrade to your textbases and thus the textbase and forms creation date will be updated too.  This was previously a handy way of checking on the vintage to help determine the history and retention value.

Check out our series of blog posts from last year on Spring Cleanup for your Databases which provide some detailed suggestions covering many of these points:

See also our post on Retirement Planning for Servers. Please contact us if you need any assistance.  We are available to analyze your databases and infrastructure and can write up a report and/or implement changes to your databases to make them easier for your successor to work with.

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