Using DB/TextWorks for research notes and reference questions

by Kathy Bryce Thursday, April 21, 2011 1:37 PM

Twice this week I have been visiting clients and noticed directories full of research notes and other background historical material. However logically these file folders may be arranged and the files named, searching through for a name or topic can be time consuming.    Our Archives Starter Kit includes a Research database which is set up to allow clients to track requests for information, but it could be used for indexing existing documents too.  So today I did an experiment with the data for St George’s School in Vancouver.   The archivist, Elizabeth Knox, has compiled hundreds of Word documents and Excel spreadsheets over the years.  Research Notes screenshot

DB/TextWorks has an Import Document function, so we pointed this at a file folder of 10 or so Word documents created as part of a Christmas memories project.  We specified the field for the ingest of extracted text, and the field to hold the document path.   In just a few minutes the documents were imported and indexed.  As the file folder was named Christmas Memories we could search and find all these records, but we also added value by batch modifying after import to populate several other fields to enhance the records.  Ideally each document record should be edited individually to pull out names and events into validated fields.  However already the text of each document is fully searchable, and words and phrases  or dates can be combined using standard DB/TextWorks syntax for much more robust searching capabilities than a Windows file search. Only the text is stored within DB/TextWorks and all formatting is lost, but search terms are highlighted making it easy to quickly see if an item is of relevance. The import process can incorporate the file path to the original document for easy retrieval if after searching, the original with formatting is required.

Elizabeth plans to start logging the numerous requests she receives for information or photos of alumni, and research for various school projects.  Most of the data entry will be simple cut and paste from emails, thus making this other source of data searchable in the same interface. She will then be able to provide the school administration with reports specifying the number and type of requests and how long each took.   This in turn may help justify new projects such as digitizing old yearbooks.

“At last a system for requests coming from all sources. It is easy to search by topic or name and track the status of any request. One of the ways I am using this new addition is to store memories shared with me by Georgians for future generations to enjoy. Now I can train some student volunteers to work on the backlog! “ [Elizabeth Knox, Archivist, St George's School.]”

For assistance setting up your own Research database, please contact us.

Andornot Sponsors Association of Canadian Archivists UBC Student Chapter Symposium

by Jonathan Jacobsen Monday, January 24, 2011 10:50 AM

Andornot is proud to be a sponsor of "The Law of Unintended Consequences: the right to be forgotten, the duty to remember." This 3rd annual international seminar and symposium is organized by the Association of Canadian Archivists Student Chapter of UBC, and is being held in the Frederic Wood Theatre at UBC from February 9-11, 2011.

The program features speakers from archives and universities in North America and Europe, on topics such as:

  • “Diversity in Expression, Diversity in Representation: Automation and Experimentation in Digital Preservation”
  • “General State Archives of Greece: Our Access Policy”
  • “Recall or Re-use? How Do Perceived Purposes for Keeping Records Influence Professional Strategies?”
  • “The Noise of the Archive: Oblivion in the Age of Total Recall”
  • “Forensic Readiness and the Challenges of the Cloud”
  • “Building and Using Digital Collections: Confronting Causality, Control, and the Impact of Digital Remembering”
  • “The Directive on Recordkeeping and Appraisal at LAC [Libraries and Archives Canada]”
  • “The Digital Recordkeeping Continuum in the Government of Canada”

Speakers and attendees will discuss topics pertinent to social media, the Web, and mobile communications and their preservation, privacy matters as well as other ethical and legal issues.

If you’re attending this event, please be sure to say hello to Kathy Bryce and Jonathan Jacobsen during one of the breaks.

Tags: Archives

Société historique de Saint-Boniface Upgrades Archives Search Interface and Launches Voyageurs Contracts Database

by Jonathan Jacobsen Friday, January 07, 2011 8:25 AM

The Centre du patrimoine (Heritage Centre) of the Société historique de Saint-Bonifaceis an archive and research facility dedicated to the preservation, study, dissemination and development of Francophone and Metis history in Manitoba and Western Canada. The Heritage Centre holds more than 500 archival fonds documenting every facet of life from culture to commerce, education to politics and religion to the economy.

"The Centre du patrimoine - Heritage Centre decided to do a completely new web site two years ago. Our goal was to have a user friendly website both for the general public doing research and for the staff updating the various sections of the site. One of the main objectives was to use as much as possible the Web 2.0 features in the limits permitted by our budget and staff resources. We wanted to have those features integrated into the database search and results interfaces as much as possible," says Gilles Lesage, Directeur général of the Heritage Centre.

Archives Database

SHSB-Archives-Search-ResultsIn the fall of 2010, Andornot merged and converted various archival databases to the latest version of the Andornot Archives Starter Kit – Desktop Edition. We then created a new web interface, in French, based on the Andornot Archives Starter Kit – Web Edition. The search results include images for some records, which are dynamically generated in several sizes by the Andornot Image Handler. A selection list allows researchers to mark records of interest, then email, save or print those records, or submit them to the Heritage Center to request additional information.

Although the database and web interface are hosted by Andornot, it appears to users to be seamlessly integrated into the Historical Society’s website, thanks to tight integration between the two systems. The search interface dynamically fetches the site header, footer and navigation menu from a blank page in the Drupal content management system used by the main website and wraps it around the database search and results pages. If the main website changes, the portion hosted by Andornot will always be up to date.

The new archival web interface is available at

Voyageurs Contracts Database

SHSB-Voyageurs-ResultsThe Heritage Center also asked Andornot to develop a database and web search interface for a collection of 35,000 records of contracts between fur traders (Voyageurs) and companies engaged in the fur trade in Canada between 1700 and ca. 1822.

Further information and links to articles giving background information on the database is available here. The search interface is available in French at

Search results are grouped by the name of the voyageur, showing the multiple contracts many voyageurs undertook. Additional information includes parishes of origin, hiring company, length of contract, destination(s), advances and wages, supplies, conditions of hire, date of signing, and more. Eventually the Heritage Centre hopes to be able to include digitized images of these contracts.

The database was created from a FileMaker database converted to a custom-designed Inmagic textbase.

As with the archives web interface, the Voyageurs interface is hosted by Andornot, but tightly integrated with the Heritage Center’s main website.

"We are very pleased with the quality of the database products, the special features Andornot was able to integrate, the successful seamless integration into our main website and ease with which we were able to upgrade from our previous databases to this new solution. In the short time since these applications were made available online, the comments have been very positive. We were also happy to work with the Andornot people and impressed by their efficiency, attention to our goals and objectives and courteous service." says Gilles Lesage.

We are delighted to have been able to assist the Heritage Centre to improve access to these important sets of historical records. Please contact us if you have any questions.

Andornot Archives Starter Kit update released

by Kathy Bryce Thursday, October 14, 2010 12:20 PM

We have just released an upgrade to the desktop version of our Andornot Archives Starter Kit. This was formerly known as Archives Online and is an add-on to Inmagic DB/TextWorks for managing archival accessions and descriptions.

The Archives Starter Kit is designed to allow quick and easy creation of databases for archival accessions and descriptions and is especially suited to small- and medium-sized archives with limited IT resources. It is designed to comply with the following archival standards:archives starter kit menu screen

  • Canadian Rules for Archival Description (RAD)  
  • International Standard for Archival Description (ISAD)

The Archives Starter Kit includes ready to use databases for:

  • Accessions
  • Descriptions
  • Contacts (i.e. donors, researchers suppliers, volunteers etc.)
  • Research Requests
  • Subject thesaurus populated with nearly 5,000 English terms from the Government of Canada Core Subject Thesaurus as of May 2010. These terms can be deleted or modified and are included to provide a starting point for building a local thesaurus.
  • Name Access thesaurus
  • Geographic Thesaurus which can be populated with local provincial entries from the Geobase Canadian Geographical Names Data Base (CGNDB).
  • Profiles (to fill various forms with the institution address and contact names).
The databases can be adopted as-is, or customized for specific needs. They can also be augmented with other databases available through Andornot's mix and match options. For example,you can add on databases managing artifacts, a library catalogue, donations, provenance, records management and more. Reports include forms for printing deeds of gift or loan; hierarchical finding aids and an EAD XML report.

Our Archives Starter Kit - web version has also recently been updated. The web version allows you to create a web interface to your descriptive data quickly and easily. While the web interface is based on the fields in the Archives Starter Kit fields it can be easily modified to use fields from any DB/TextWorks archival database instead.  An alternate web interface is also available for schools or for organizations with just digitized resources, and features gallery style search results. We can also create a customized interface to suit your needs, and blend it with your website template or content management system.

Existing users of Archives Online version 2 and 3 may be able to upgrade for free. You will need a recent copy of DB/TextWorks – preferably the current version which is v12, however version 10 and up should also work. If you have an older version please contact us for upgrade pricing.   If your databases or forms have been customized since your original purchase, these changes may need to be replicated or merged into the new version. Upgrade assistance is of course available on a consulting basis.  Contact us to receive a copy of the upgrade instructions to see whether you would be able to handle this yourself or would need our help.

Brad Morrison, Archives Manager for Sidney Museum & Archives recently upgraded from Archives Online version 2 purchased in 2003 and writes that “One of the marked improvements over the previous version is the Digital Asset data entry screen, wherein the ability now to satisfactorily catalogue, describe and view our photographic collection is becoming a significant asset in assisting our cliental.  I just want to thank you again for developing and providing us with this useful archival tool which makes my day to day job so much easier to accomplish.”

Read more details on our website; let us know if you would like to set up a time for a demo; or contact us for more information and pricing.

The challenge: creating a travelling virtual exhibit for locations with no internet access.

by Kathy Bryce Wednesday, September 15, 2010 10:47 AM

UFA Co-operative Limited celebrated their centennial last year and has created a virtual exhibit, 101 Years of Enriching Rural Life which features artifacts, music and an interactive display.   In 1909, farmers across Alberta joined together to create a co-operative that would improve conditions for agricultural producers and bring modern conveniences to rural areas. From 1921-1935 UFA was a political party and formed the provincial government, and since then it has expanded into businesses including agriculture, petroleum, construction and outdoor adventure.  UFA now has 120 locations throughout Alberta, BC and Saskatchewan.

The centennial exhibit is travelling throughout rural Alberta, often to very small centres with no resources or technical support to set up a public internet connection in the local museum.  The UFA archives uses Inmagic DB/TextWorks and the Andornot Archives Starter Kit to manage their archival accessions, descriptions and artifacts, so they asked us if we could help create a display of their photos and digitized documents.
UFA screenshot
Our solution was to use the free, search only, version of DB/TextWorks. This has been loaded onto the PC that gets shipped around to the various locations along with its display stand and monitor.  We created a subset of the textbase with a specially designed menu screen and display forms.   All the menu screen links were to saved sets within the database and the Options were set to always show results in the Report window to avoid users ever seeing a query screen.   Virtually all the icons were stripped off the toolbars, and script buttons added for users to navigate through the records viewing descriptive information and the images themselves.  This ensures that people who have never seen DB/TextWorks before can simply click to view information.

The image file paths had to be batch modified for the subset exhibit database and of course any changes had to be made using the full version of DB/TextWorks. This meant a lot of copying over textbases again every time a minor change was needed.  Designing for the low resolution small monitor for the travelling exhibit was also a challenge. However, now that the procedure is in place, the database can be updated to add new material regularly, ie. for a new town on the exhibit circuit.

“The exhibit has been popular and importantly is easy for people to use.  The staff member at the exhibit's current location had extremely little computer experience and was quite comfortable exploring the database within minutes. The United Farmers Historical Society (UFHS) is pleased that it was able to utilize the software it already owned  and records that had been previously created;  Andornot's solution saved UFHS both time and money.” [Carolyn Foard, History Coordinator, UFA Co-operative Limited.]

The DB/TextWorks search-only version can also be used to master DVDs for distribution or to provide a search only version of the textbases for public use.  Check out the DB/TextWorks online help under Run-time version or contact Andornot for more information.  Ultimately most organizations would choose to use WebPublisher PRO to provide a web based search interface to their databases, but this project shows what is still possible with limited resources!

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