Charting Change Atlas: the technical details

by Peter Tyrrell Wednesday, February 17, 2010 11:14 AM

The City of Burnaby just launched their Charting Change Atlas, a series of interactive maps showing historical points of interest for the past 100 years. See the news post here. Since I was responsible for its development, I thought I’d talk about some of the technical aspects.

Over 350 points of interest, held as records in an Inmagic database, are associated with four map images. Making those images look and act like current web-based map applications was a bit of a challenge, and it was critical to keep page size down and performance snappy.

Map images

Each map image originated as a 2700 x 3500 TIFF, and each point of interest was located as an X/Y coordinate in pixels relative to the image. These images were not maps, but pictures that looked like maps. That meant we couldn't place points of interest on them via address or latitude/longitude.

The large images were then sliced into PNG tiles by excitable chefs wielding ginsu knives. The tiles are loaded dynamically when they are pulled into the visible viewport to cut down on initial load time. A modified version of the jQuery plugin Lazy Load is used to determine when an unloaded tile has appeared within the viewport.

A map framework

The viewport resizes to fit the browser resolution, whatever it is, regardless of the size of the map within, and reveals only a portion of the map at a time. It contains a very large outer div tag that marks the boundaries of the drag area, and an inner div that contains the map tiles.

The map can be dragged or scrolled in any direction, but the majority of it is hidden outside the viewport bounds. jQuery UI Draggable powers the drag mechanism. The snap-back feature, which pops the map back to the viewport boundary when the edges are pulled in too far, was inspired by my iPhone.

The rest of the map UI is a nod to current web-based map applications - i.e. Google Maps and Bing Maps - in an effort to create an intuitive and comfortable experience for a visitor. We found the more the application looked and acted like these map applications, the less we had to explain to a first-time user. On the other hand, it perhaps worked too well, because users keep expecting the map to zoom! It doesn't zoom because it consists of just the one layer, while Google, Bing and Co. boast multiple vertical layers. Something to work on in future...

Points of interest

The point data are recursively loaded sector by sector upon page load via jQuery AJAX to a .NET web service, which performs the database query and returns the results as a JSON object. This load sequence considerably improves the perception of performance: large amounts of data are pushed over the wire, but they are spread over the first few seconds following page load.

Pins are cloned from a pin template, stuffed with point of interest data and positioned relative to the map container. The dialog that appears when a pin is hovered over or clicked is built from a dialog template bound to pin data on demand. A modified version of John Resig's Micro-Templating function is used for client-side templating and databinding.

All points of interest are held inside a Heritage Landmarks Inmagic CS/Textworks database, already in use at http://heritageburnaby.com/research/Landmarks/, which was extended to hold information specific to the Charting Change Atlas project: query URLs out to other databases, a blurb and primary image, coordinates, and a Google Street View URL.

Conclusion

It was a blast designing and building the Charting Change Atlas, and a privilege to work together with the far-seeing heritage team at the City of Burnaby. Kudos to them for leveraging their existing toolset and informational treasure trove to make history so alive and accessible.

 

City of Burnaby launches Charting Change: An Interactive Atlas of Burnaby's Heritage

by Kathy Bryce Tuesday, February 16, 2010 4:20 PM

Andornot has been working with the City of Burnaby for the last three years, first on the development of the Heritage Burnaby website and then on adding the ability to comment on images in their photo collection. Now this exciting Charting Change Atlas Screenshotnew Charting Change atlas allows users to see how historical events, ranging from First Nations settlement to the founding of Fort Langley in 1825, through to the Depression and post-war housing boom have shaped the community of Burnaby. In 2001, Burnaby’s Community Heritage Commission initiated a project to create an atlas mapping all protected heritage resources and other historic sites in Burnaby, illustrating the evolution of the city.  Last year the City approached Andornot to design a new, interactive version of the atlas and funding was obtained through the Canadian Culture Online Program of the Department of Canadian Heritage.

Behind the scenes, the information shown on each map point is pulled from the existing Inmagic  databases currently searchable from the Heritage Burnaby website.   Heritage landmarks, historic buildings, and neighbourhoods are plotted and linked to the records for photographs, artifacts, textual records and bylaws. Tools and resources from all of Burnaby's Heritage partners - the City Archives, the Burnaby Village Museum, the Burnaby Planning Department and the Burnaby Historical Society - are combined to provide a unique perspective of Burnaby. 

Coincidentally, Google Street Views became available in the lower mainland, the day of the kick off meeting for this project.  We were able to include this new capability so that users can zoom into many of the heritage sites and historic buildings to view them in their present context - a truly unique feature that offers a rare glimpse of how the landscape of Burnaby has evolved. 

"We have worked with Andornot for the past three years, developing our website and our collections management systems.  Some of the most novel features of our site - particularly the use of Google Street Views in this latest project - have been a direct result of Andornot's creativity and innovation and we are once again thrilled with the final product."  [Arilea Sill, Municipal Archivist, City of Burnaby Archives.]

Please contact Andornot for further information.

West Vancouver Archives launches web search interface

by Kathy Bryce Friday, May 22, 2009 9:25 AM

The West Vancouver Archives has been a long time user of Inmagic software and Archives On  line. A new searWVMA Admin Historychable interface to their descriptions database is now available from the District of West Vancouver website at http://archives.westvancouver.ca/

This interface was developed by Andornot using Inmagic WebPublisher PRO and Andornot’s Archival Starter Kit as a basis.  A neat feature is the addition of links to biographical or administrative history data which is maintained in a separate textbase.  To see examples of these, search on Cypress Park Primary School or Rupert Harris on and click on the Creator link in the full record display. 

Over a thousand images have been scanned. Searches can be restricted to just these records by checking the box to limit to electronic items only on the Advanced seaWVMA full record with imagerch screen.

The archivist, Shaunna Moore gave us some great feedback:

"Andornot consistently demonstrated a dedication to our project that exceeded our expectations. By providing a comprehensive knowledge of the software combined with an enthusiasm to meeting the particulars of our organizational needs, the Andornot team ensured that our end product was a user friendly archival database system ideally suited to our staff and community."

Please contact us for more information on the software and tools used for this project.

CNSA Archives Management Software Review

by Administrator Monday, December 22, 2008 1:23 PM

A review of Archives Management Software is now available from the Council of Nova Scotia Archives website.  Andornot was contacted in the summer and supplied a trial version of Archives Online and Inmagic DB/TextWorks. We were also interviewed by phone and provided an overview of the software in a web based training session.  CNSA also contacted clients using each software package for their feedback.

We are delighted that Archives Online was picked as one of the top three programs that stood out from the rest. "If a simple but fully featured and highly customizable program is needed, Archives Online is a good choice."  Andornot also came out well in the Software Support and Sustainability section - "Of all of the vendors that were contacted for this project, Andornot was the most responsive and helpful."

Contact us for more information or a demo of Archives Online - either the desktop version reviewed here or the optional web searching interface.

Tags: News | Inmagic | Archives

Algoma University launches two new online databases

by Kathy Bryce Friday, July 25, 2008 9:30 AM

The Arthur A. Wishart Library at Algoma University has recently launched two new online databases to make it easier for the public to access archival resources, and student and faculty-driven research.

The first database holds records for the university's Archives and Special Collections.Algoma University Archives & Special Collections Behind the scenes  the software used is DB/TextWorks and WebPublisher PRO from Inmagic, Inc., along with the Archives Online and Archives Starter Kit add-on packages from Andornot which are specifically designed for managing archival descriptions. Both a quick search and an advanced search option are provided, and canned searches display Archival Finding Aids dynamically from the database for selected fonds.  Andornot assisted with the design and with integration of the Algoma template into the search and results pages.

The second database is an institutional repository called DigitalAlgoma designed to hold new student and faculty driven research, often referred to as “born-digital” research. Included in the DigitalAlgoma archives are over two hundred honours theses from past Algoma University psychology and computer science students.  The same template and the archival databases and forms were used as a basis for designing the web interface for DigitalAlgoma, allowing this to be created in-house quickly and effectively. 

The Archives and Special Collections interface also includes an iGoogle gadget to allow users to add a search box to their iGoogle home pages. (see our Developer blog post for more information on how to set these up.)

Check out the press release or contact us for for further information.

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