Ottawa Jewish Archives Collections Now Searchable Through CJHN.ca

by Jonathan Jacobsen Wednesday, April 06, 2016 10:45 AM

The Ottawa Jewish Archives joins a growing list of Jewish archives across the country whose collections are searchable online through the Canadian Jewish Heritage Network website: http://www.cjhn.ca

Established in 1969, the Ottawa Jewish Archives strives to maintain the collective memory of the Jewish Community of Ottawa by acquiring, preserving, and making accessible holdings which document the history, growth, and development of the Jewish community within Ottawa and the National Capital Region. 

With an archival collection that tells the story of community life in Ottawa from the 1890’s to the current day, the Archives contains a wide range of records relating to individuals and families, community organizations and events, congregations, and businesses. 

This is the first time that the holdings of the Ottawa Jewish Archives have been accessible online in the Archive’s 47 year history. 

"This is a major achievement for the Archives. Through modernization of access to our collections and advancement of our digital agenda, we can make the remote accessible and the hard to see visible. This project enables the Archives to more effectively meet user expectations, encourage discovery of our collections, and better deliver archives services." 

– Saara Mortensen, Archivist, Ottawa Jewish Archives. 

"This addition brings the archival holdings of a third Canadian province into the network; the Ottawa Jewish Archives being the first archive from Ontario to add information about its collections to our shared database." 

– Janice Rosen, Archives Director, Alex Dworkin Canadian Jewish Archives. 

(l-r) CJHN founding partners Janice Rosen and Shannon Hodge, with Ottawa Jewish Archives archivist Saara Mortensen.

Andornot helped the Ottawa Jewish Archives with adjustments to their DB/TextWorks-based archival records system. Andornot developed and hosts the CJHN.ca site based on our Andornot Discovery Interface search engine.

The Ottawa Jewish Archives was one of several recipients of the Library and Archives Canada Documentary Heritage Communities Program, which provides grants to select organizations for projects such as this.

Contact Andornot to discuss projects similar to this for your organization.

Heritage Burnaby Website Wins Heritage BC Award

by Kathy Bryce Wednesday, March 02, 2016 2:23 PM

The City of Burnaby’s Heritage Burnaby website (www.heritageburnaby.ca) has won one of Heritage BC’s 35th Anniversary awards. Heritage Burnaby won in the category of Heritage Education & Awareness for the upgrades in 2015 to the Heritage Burnaby website and search engine.

This site was initially developed by Andornot in 2008, then upgraded in 2015 to use the Andornot Discovery Interface (AnDI), Instead of having to search each collection separately, users canHeritageBurnabyResultScreen now type in a keyword and instantly see a combined listing of results from the collections of the City of Burnaby Archives, the Burnaby Village Museum, the Office of the City Clerk and Burnaby Heritage Planning. Searches can be narrowed down through facets for repository, type, date, subject, person, place etc. A good example showing the diversity of material is a search on “carousel” which is one of Burnaby’s heritage landmark buildings. This retrieves nearly 150 records with photos, sound recordings from the Archives oral history collection, books from the Museum library, and documents submitted to council, as well as the artifact records.

The new search interface is also now more forgiving, with automatic spelling corrections and “did “you mean” search suggestions which are very helpful for proper names and places where the user may be unsure of the correct spelling.

As part of this project several publications on the history of Burnaby were digitized and made full text searchable. A couple of these were indexed at the book chapter level to allow zeroing in to specific pages. These are viewable online with search words highlighted. Museum staff have reported that they are now “finding many wonderful connections between photos, records, landmarks, artifacts, and library resources” that were not apparent before. (Lisa Codd, Curator)

The update also included development of a new website with content managed in an Umbraco CMSallowing staff to add blog posts and update content easily. The research page provides more information on the types of materials included, and allows users to search only specific collections, or select neighbourhoods on a map, to see all resources from specific areas. The new website design is responsive to provide a mobile friendly interface, and includes features for streaming audio and video files. Behind the scenes, records are maintained in multiple Inmagic DB/TextWorks databases and extracted and indexed by AnDI when approved for public access.

Everything you wanted to know about Burnaby is at your fingertips,” as a result of this new upgrade! Please contact Andornot if you’d like to discuss options for updating your search interface or combining a search of multiple types of materials into one combined search.

King Institute at Stanford University Upgrades DB/TextWorks Archival Solution

by Jonathan Jacobsen Wednesday, January 20, 2016 8:44 AM

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Institute at Stanford Universityuses DB/TextWorks to manage an archival database of tens of thousands of speeches, sermons, letters, and other documents by and about Martin Luther King, Jr.

Known as OKRA (Online King Records Access), the database includes descriptive information as well as holdings details for these resources held at repositories all over the United States. Digitized audio and video recording are also available.

A web-based data entry system had been developed many years ago, using Inmagic WebPublisher PRO. However, advances in web technologies had resulted in problems with this interface. A decision was made to replace it with a purely DB/TextWorks-based solution.

Andornot upgraded the query screens, reports and data entry forms in the main database to ones based on our Andornot Starter Kit, for improved usability. Script-buttons were included to assist with searching and editing records, and scripts and other validation was added to the data entry forms to aid in looking up information in other databases, and to restrict some user groups' access the database. Secondary databases were converted to thesauri so that they could be used as validation lists, but with multiple selections possible in a field and record in the main database.

Online search access using Inmagic WebPublisher PRO remains available at http://okra.stanford.edu though this interface may also be upgraded in the near future.

Please contact Andornot for assistance with your Inmagic-based databases, and similar projects.

New Search Options for the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania Library and Archives

by Jonathan Jacobsen Friday, November 20, 2015 10:30 AM

The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania maintains a collection of tens of thousands of resources related to railroading in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The collection is diverse - historical, political, cultural, social, economic, and technological - and emphasizes its development from the 1830s through the present day. Every manner of printed materials is in the collection, from annual reports to timetables, as well as an extensive set of photographs and negatives. A reference library contains books, periodicals, railroad association and union publications, government documents, and trade catalogues.

Public search access has been available for many years through an interface developed by Andornot using our Andornot Starter Kit. However, as with all websites and applications, renewal and refurbishment is necessary every few years, to keep up with technology standards and user expectations. In particular, we noticed that the search logs indicated no records found for many user searches, so we knew that some new features were needed to help users connect to resources.

In 2015, the museum began a project with Andornot to develop a new, modern search engine using the Andornot Discovery Interface (AnDI). This is now available at http://rrmuseumpa.andornot.com 

"We had two primary objectives – to replace an earlier online catalog search system that was sagging under the growing weight of tens of thousands of new records and images, and to make the system more useful to users who have become accustomed to the more intelligent finding systems currently available in so many places on the web. Andornot delivered admirably on both needs." -- James Alexander, Jr., the museum's webmaster and lead on this project.

Large Collection Needs Advanced Search Features

The new search offers users access to over 270,000 records from both the library and archives databases, which were formerly separate. 80,000 of these records have digitized photographs available online. With such a large data set, advanced search features are needed to help researchers uncover resources of interest to them.

AnDI's Apache Solr search engine excels at indexing large data sets. The more records that are available to it, the better it can analyze words and perform frequency analysis on them, one of the many algorithms it uses to deliver relevant results first.

Key to the search process are the facets that allow researchers to narrow their initial search by many criteria, such as the names of railroads, individuals, corporations and other organizations, subjects, geographic places, and dates.

As with all AnDI sites, users can view brief and full records, view photographs in a gallery layout, save records to a list, share search results on social media, and of course, access the site as easily from a tablet or phone as a desktop web browser.

The small selection of videos included in search results are published through the museum's YouTube channel to expose the museum to the widest possible audience. A YouTube player is embedded in search results for playback within the new site.

AnDI Handles Spelling Variations

As is to be expected with such a large collection, entered over many years by a variety of people, spelling variations and typographic errors have crept in. AnDI helps users locate resources despite this, using two key features:

1. The Apache Solr search engine in AnDI is very, very good at parsing terms from records and suggesting correct terms based on what's in the records and what user's search for. These appear in search results as spelling corrections and "Did you mean?" suggestions, which a user may click to try a different search.

2. A synonym list created by museum staff relates correct terms to some of the many variations that appear. 

For example, the New York, Susquehanna & Western Railway appears in around 7,000 records, but with the name Susquehanna spelled at least 11 different ways. Given that searchers may not enter the correct spelling either, the search problem is not trivial! The combination of the synonym list and Solr's other suggestions and corrections helps ensure that no matter how either the data was originally entered, nor how a user searches for it, AnDI can return relevant and complete results.

A video introduction and written search help are both available to introduce users to the site. 

Inmagic DB/TextWorks for Back-End Data Management

Behind the scenes, the museum continues to use Inmagic DB/TextWorks to manage these records. This database management system is invaluable to them in managing metadata, selecting standard metadata from validation lists, and providing access to volunteers for every-day data entry.

The museum's search engine continues to be hosted by Andornot as part of our managed hosting service.

"While Andornot had available a well-built modern search system in AnDI, they spent a lot of time with us learning about our particular users' needs, helping us think through the most useful processes, and refining the search experience. They know the business of both managing records internally and helping users find what they need. 

In the process two things happened – we learned more about the strengths and weaknesses in our data entry processes, and the usefulness and public recognition of our holdings were enhanced through improved web access.  The search help video was a real plus, and they worked with us in making our search page both functional and attractive." – James Alexander, Jr.

We're very pleased to continue our work with the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania. Contact us to discuss upgrades and search options for your museum collections.

It’s not about you! Designing for your end users.

by Kathy Bryce Wednesday, October 21, 2015 4:54 PM

When we are working with clients to design new search interfaces, we always stress the importance of defining who will be using the system, and then trying to meet the specific needs and expectations of these end users.

It’s Not About You
We often have to remind clients that “It’s not about you!” Archivists and librarians in particular often ask us for search pages with lots of options as they personally are used to constructing complex queries. However the trend with most search interfaces is to keep these simple with a single Google style search box. 

We suggest that you think about other websites your end users search, whether that be a university or public library catalog, or Amazon or other shopping sites.  Nearly all of these now use a discovery style interface that is geared to letting users put words or terms into a search box, and then narrowing their searches down from the search results page through facets or filters.

Like most other search interfaces, we do usually include some Advanced Search options but the website usage statistics we’ve collected for our hosted client sites over the years indicate that most are rarely accessed.  Pre-selecting search limiters removes the possibility of serendipitous discovery of unexpected resources, and the expectation now is that the results will be displayed by relevance so that the closest matches appear first.  We therefore discourage clients from specifying a traditional title sort, as if the user is looking for a known item and searches on words in the title, it will appear at or near the top of a relevance ranked display.

Use Cases and Personas
One of the ways we suggest you try to relate to your end user needs is through the creation of personas or user profiles.   For each of these personas we then suggest you think about factors that might impact their searching behaviour.   First and foremost - what are they looking for and why?  What will they want to do next when they’ve found something of interest?   So for a publicly accessible archives site, you might create personas for the following types of users.

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Carol is looking for pictures of her grandparents and the house where they lived

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Lucy wants a picture of an old farm implement for a school project

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George is compiling a history of a local church.

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John works at City Hall & wants to find maps or plans of an area slated for redevelopment.

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Kevin is interested in a local railway line that runs through the area.

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Daphne is writing her thesis on a local political movement.

Make the process a fun exercise by incorporating graphical representations using images from a stock photo site such as billionphotos.com– search for avatar to find these examples, or contact us to help you. We find images make it easier to visualize how a person might behave, rather than just assigning an abstract name. The usability.govwebsite has an excellent overview article.

Avoid Jargon and Acronyms
You will also need to consider your personas familiarity with the subject area. Again “It’s not about you”, unless you are designing for a very limited audience, jargon and acronyms should be avoided.  Most government websites have guidelines on writing in “plain language” to convey information easily and unambiguously.  However we still see archival sites that include references to the GMD or to the General Material Designation.  Think about walking up to someone in the street and asking them if they understand what this term means! 

Spelling Matters
Spelling is a huge issue.  Too many times we’ve looked through search logs and seen searches that result in zero hits as the search terms were spelt incorrectly.  Think for example about medical terms and how to cater to the public that might be looking for Lou Gehrig’s disease.  Lots of potential to spell this wrong, but worse, you might have indexed relevant items under the medical term of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or the abbreviation ALS or A.L.S.!   Many modern search interfaces now feature Did You Mean spell checking, but maybe you also need to seed the indexes with lists of synonyms or common misspellings of proper names found in the collection. 

It’s all too easy to make assumptions about your end users abilities and their knowledge of web searching techniques. Let us guide you through the process of designing your new search interface based on our knowledge of best practices. We’ll try to tactfully remind you that “it’s not about you”! Contact us to discuss the possibilities today.

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