Canadian Jewish Heritage Network Now Offering a Single Search Across Multiple Data Sources

by Jonathan Jacobsen Tuesday, August 26, 2014 1:19 PM

The Canadian Jewish Heritage Network (www.cjhn.ca) contains over one hundred thousands archival and genealogical records about Jewish history in Canada. The website is now powered by the latest version of the Andornot Discovery Interface (AnDI), providing an updated search with facets, spell checking and a host of new features.  

The CJHN site is hosted by Andornot and first launched in 2011, using the Umbraco content management system for static content and Inmagic WebPublisher PRO for database searching. Two separate databases were maintained: one for archival records and the other for genealogical. The records are contributed by a number of Jewish archives across the country, from many different source systems, including DB/TextWorks, FileMaker, and Archilog.

About a year later, a mobile-friendly view of the site and search features was added, along with an early version of our Andornot Discovery Interface (AnDI), to provide a simple search across the two separate databases.  This was an improvement, but meant that users had to contend with two different search syntaxes and separate selection carts.  After several months of planning and development, the early version of AnDI was recently upgraded. AnDI is now the only search engine on the site, searching all archival and genealogical records. 

Records are available from six different repositories and include many digitized photographs and historic documents, and an increasing number of videos. Search options allow users to easily narrow their results to just these types of records if they wish. An advanced search page also allows users to limit their searches by repository, material type, and other parameters, or to Browse A-Z indexes of Names, Places, Subjects and Collections. The Image Galleries and fonds inventories have all been upgraded to use the new search system.

The updated selection feature allows users to save records and then create a PDF, email them to a colleague, or request more information from the archives.  A hierarchical display shows the archival records in context and there is a link to view related records based on indexing terms. Permalinks facilitate the indexing of individual records by Google and other search engines, thus providing additional access points to the collection.  

We are delighted to have been able to continue to work with CJHN on improvements to their site and to see the network continue to flourish. As AnDI is a search layer, minimal changes were required to staff workflow in each of the repositories.   

Janice Rosen (CJHN coordinator and director of the Canadian Jewish Congress CC National Archives) notes: "The more I explore the potential of our new interface, the more I marvel at what it can do. Being able to search for very specific areas of interest has benefited our staff as well as our clientele, and the site partners can now create display galleries with minimal effort."

If you have an existing system that works well behind the scenes, but doesn’t have all the features that users expect in a modern search engine, contact us to see how AnDI could provide an enhanced interface to your collections.

Earlier Blog Posts About CJHN

Canadian Jewish Heritage Network Launches

Canadian Jewish Heritage Network Launches Enhanced Search and Mobile Interface

Thunder Bay and Simcoe Muskoka Health Units Launch Shared Library Catalogue

by Jonathan Jacobsen Monday, May 12, 2014 6:42 PM

In 2012, Andornot worked with the Thunder Bay District Health Unit to upgrade their DB/TextWorks library system from the older Inmagic Library Module kit to the much newer Genie Integrated Library System

This year, the Simcoe Muskoka Health Unit merged their MS Access library catalogue into this shared Genie system, providing both health units with a modern, up-to-date system for managing library holdings, serial subscriptions, orders, and more.

Amongst health care agencies in Canada, it is quite common to share library systems and resources – it makes good economic sense, and helps users and patients to more easily find resources with a single search point.

The public and patients may search the combined library holdings through http://ophc.andornot.com, a discovery interface powered by the VuFind open source software. 

VuFind includes features such as:

  • Spelling suggestions and corrections. 
  • Faceted browsing to allow users to refine searches by subject, date, collection, and other key fields. 
  • A mobile interface. 
  • Google Book covers for records with ISBNs. 
  • Permalinks to records to allow easy bookmarking and social sharing. 
  • User accounts to allow users to save searches and records to personal lists.
  • RSS feeds for user-created searches.

A custom request form developed by Andornot allows users to direct a request to borrow items to the appropriate health unit.

Data is automatically imported into the VuFind system nightly using the Andornot Data Extraction Utility, so there’s no additional work needed by library staff.

The shared Genie system is hosted by Andornot as part of our managed hosting service. Working with two separate groups on a joint system can be tricky, but in this case the cooperation between the library staff in the two health units allowed us to complete the project in a very tight time frame.

"Thanks very much for all of your hard work on this project. It is very much appreciated by us and will be by our clients." Amy Faulkner, Librarian, SMDHU

"You’ve done an exceptional job and we’re all quite appreciative of your hard work and discipline to get this through in such short time frames." Shant Alajajian, Librarian, TBDHU

Contact us to discuss upgrades to your library system and public search interface.

Peel Health Region Upgrades Library Search Interface

by Jonathan Jacobsen Wednesday, April 23, 2014 11:09 AM

The Peel Health Region library in Ontario has been using Inmagic DB/TextWorks for a number of years to manage a small, specialized collection of health care resources. 

The library contacted Andornot recently for assistance in updating the public search interface to the catalog. After reviewing the catalog and discussing their needs, Andornot recommended an upgrade to both the DB/TextWorks databases and desktop interface, as well as creating a new web search interface.  

The library’s DB/TextWorks Catalog database was upgraded to the latest one from the Andornot Starter Kit, featuring well-designed forms, query screens, and script buttons for easy navigation.

A new public search interface was built from the web portion of the Andornot Starter Kit, and is available at http://peel.andornot.com, hosted by Andornot in our data centre. This interface is based on the Twitter Bootstrap responsive web framework, allowing the site to reformat itself for the user’s browser, so that it’s as usable on full-size desktop browser as on a tablet or smartphone.

Librarian Diana Robertson was particularly interested in linking to PDFs of reports. PDFs are currently stored in a document management system only available internally. With catalog records already available for many of these, linking to the PDFs and making them available in the web interface gives much greater public access.

A list of popular topics on the home page (constructed with the help of the Andornot Search Cannery Wizard) provide quick access to areas of the collection. 

The site also features icons to indicate material type, and a selection list to allow users to email, save or print items of most interest to them. These features are standard with the Andornot Starter Kit.

Contact us for assistance with upgrading your catalog to more effective desktop and web interfaces.

Collections of the United Farmers Historical Society now online

by Kathy Bryce Friday, April 11, 2014 7:25 PM

The history of the United Farmers of Alberta (UFA) is fascinating. I suspect not too many people are aware that from 1921 to 1935 UFA was a political party, and actually formed the provincial government of Alberta.   From its formation in1909 as a lobby for farmers’ interests, UFA has grown from a small-scale local co-operative into an extensive retail operation with 120,000 active owners. UFA businesses include agriculture, petroleum, construction and outdoor adventure.  The need to provide better access to the wealth of historical information was recognized by UFA, and we are delighted that we have been able to work with them to create this new website at http://archives.ufa.com  to showcase their collections.

Andornot has worked with UFA for over 5 years, including converting various databases and spreadsheets to our Archives Starter Kit, and creating a runtime version of DB/TextWorks with selected records for the UFA 101 Years of History virtual exhibit that toured Alberta in 2010. The United Farmers Historical Society (UFHS) was started as a board within UFA in 2001 and was incorporated as a non-profit in 2002. Last year UFHS approved funding to create a searchable web interface to the archival descriptions database. However, while sitting in the UFA reception area waiting to meet to discuss the project, I started flicking through the beautiful coffee table book prepared for the centennial, “Deep Roots, Promising Future”. I asked about the availability of this book now that the centennial celebrations were over and whether they had a digital version available, as it looked like the copyright was owned by UFA. I explained that Andornot could provide a search capability for the text of this book and for any other publications they might want to digitize, to provide a much richer experience. This was met with excitement and it was agreed to totally revamp the scope of the project and try to capture a much broader range of information and documents surrounding the history of UFA.

Our key consideration for the design of the search interface was that it should be geared imagefirstly to UFA members and staff, and secondly to researchers and students. We know that UFA members especially will likely never have used an archives, and will be unfamiliar with archival terminology. We anticipate that their main interest will be related to specific farm stores and especially the people who ran them. Previous archivists had concentrated on describing the 40 or so fonds within the collection so these records are of course included, along with file and item level records detailing store openings and events. Only a relatively small subset of the UFA photo collection has been digitized so far, and continuing this process will be a focus for ongoing updates. Thumbnails are shown on the results screen or for a file box icon is used to indicate that only textual, non-digitized materials are available.

We were able to take the Adobe InDesign files for the “Deep Roots, Promising Future” book and imagecreate separate PDF’s for each chapter as these each covered a specific period in the history of UFA. After discussions with local digitization vendors, UFA contracted with the Internet Archive to digitize back issues of the “U.F.A. Co-operator” and the “United Farmer” magazines. Working with the University of Toronto IA office was a very cost effective and positive experience, and they will be digitizing additional publications for inclusion on the UFHS site over the summer. If any of these publications are retrieved by a search, the image of the page is displayed thus giving the site more visual interest, and a snippet shows the search words in context.

imageAll digitized publications can be read online and search terms are highlighted on the page. Users can scroll through page by page or see all the pages as thumbnails.clip_image006

An exciting benefit of utilizing the Internet Archive for the digitization process was the ability to add links to download the entire magazine issue in PDF, E-Book or Kindle format.

The UFA site design was created with the Twitter Bootstrap framework and Sesamo theme and is responsive, meaning the site will display nicely on large screen monitors, tablets and smart phones. The search interface is built with the Andornot Discovery Interface (AnDI). AnDI is an ASP.NET MVC web application that leverages the open-source Apache Solr search engine. Solr is fast, can handle very large data sets, and has excellent and highly configurable search algorithms and relevancy rankings.  AnDI adheres to the Smithsonian schema based on the Dublin Core Metadata standard, with imported data mapped to fields in this element set. This enables the creation of facets to narrow searches down by collection, format, subject etc. Dates are searchable by decade.

This has been a delightful project for us, as we have thoroughly enjoyed working with UFA staff, who have been receptive to changes in scope as new opportunities for enhancing the site were identified. We have also come across some hilarious articles and comics and learnt about the history of Alberta along the way. We look forward to continuing to work with UFA as new content is identified for inclusion in the search interface.

“I would like to thank Kathy and Peter for their work in making our archives’ online search interface take shape over the last few months. UFHS had completed over a decade of work in arranging and describing our records, but access to this data was limited to the archivist’s computer. Our archives site now allows UFHS to provide access to materials from the UFA’s long history to our co-operative’s staff and members, as well as sharing our story with the general public. Our initial testing around the office has generated a lot of interest from different business groups in the potential for using our archival materials in marketing and presentations.

Kathy and Peter have been accommodating and helpful with our specific requirements in simplifying archival terminology and usability for novice researchers, while maintaining features that more advanced users would want to see.  They have also been a tremendous value in helping me problem-solve and prioritize my work in cleaning up data and digitization. It has been an absolute pleasure to work with Andornot on this project.” [Sven Andreassen, UFHS Archivist]

This project and our recent work for the Ontario Jewish Archives demonstrate the possibilities of a utilizing a single interface to search multiple disparate data sources with our Andornot Discovery Interface. Please contact us if you are interested in discussing possibilities.

New website for the Ontario Jewish Archives, Blankenstein Family Heritage Centre

by Kathy Bryce Tuesday, March 25, 2014 11:36 AM

The Ontario Jewish Archives, Blankenstein Family Heritage Centre (OJA) has recently launched a new website which includes two exciting new features.  Andornot has been working with OJA staff for the past seven months to build a sophisticated search interface to their archival records, and to create an interactive mapping of Jewish Landmarks of Ontario.

A wealth of content related to Jewish history in the province of Ontario is federated and now searchable from a single search box. Much of this is publicly available for the first time and includes:image

  • close to 25,000 archival descriptions
  • selected archival accessions
  • oral histories and interviews
  • historical landmarks
  • Toronto Jewish city directories
  • ship passenger manifests
  • website and online exhibits
  • images, audio, video, digitized text

The OJA came into the project with a specific vision for their site as well as a set of requirements for searching, sorting and displaying results. Results from all data sources are intermingled and facets may be selected to narrow the results by data source, the collection and description level for descriptive records, format, decade, subject, name, and place. Results can also be limited to records with images or video or other types of digital content.

Some of the neat features include:image

  • The provenance is indicated with a hierarchical tree to show the context in which descriptive records were created.
  • For website content pages, the search term is highlighted in a snippet on the results page to show context.
  • Add to a List option allows users to print selected records, or create a PDF, or email their search results.
  • Clicking on an image automatically displays an overlay with dynamically generated and watermarked larger version.

A really helpful feature when dealing with proper names and places is the Did you mean or spell checking functionality. clip_image006 So a search for Eglington will bring up a message suggesting Eglinton instead.  Even if users know the right spelling, this is great for catching typos.

The Jewish Landmarks of Ontario currently includes points of interest in the Kensington Market/Spadina area of Toronto, but will be expanding to include neighbourhoods, towns and cities from around the province.  imageThese historical buildings and sites are pinpointed on an interactive map using data in the Landmarks database, and are accompanied by photos, documents, and audiovisual material pulled from the other databases.

The website was designed by Emerson Media and is hosted on the OJA servers.  The search interface is hosted by Andornot and incorporates the same templating and styles for a seamless transition.  Updated records and images are synchronized nightly based on certain criteria, allowing OJA to choose when a record is ready for publication on the website.

OJA has used Inmagic DB/TextWorks software along with the Andornot Archives Starter Kit for many years to manage their accessions and descriptive records.  Their oral histories database was expanded for this project and we worked with the OJA to create a new, linked Landmarks database.

The search interface is built with the Andornot Discovery Interface (AnDI). AnDI is an ASP.NET MVC web application that leverages the open-source Apache Solr search engine. Solr is fast, can handle very large data sets, and has excellent and highly configurable search algorithms and relevancy rankings.  AnDI adheres to the Dublin Core Metadata standard, with imported data mapped to fields in the Dublin Core element set. This permits multiple data sources, each with different schema, to be indexed, searched and presented in a single discovery interface.   Some modifications were made to the existing OJA databases to better utilize the search features in AnDI but apart from this, staff have been able to continue their regular routines without needing to learn any new software.

The landmarks map makes use of LeafletJs, an open-source javascript library for mobile-friendly interactive maps, and the Google Maps API. AnDI's responsive and mobile-friendly UI was built with the Zurb Foundation CSS framework.

As illustrated by this project, AnDI can be applied to search multiple disparate data sources, thus providing a user friendly interface whilst allowing the archives to maintain their archivist-oriented internal systems and workflow.

We are delighted with the new site, and the feedback we have received from OJA staff has been incredibly positive:

“I would like to extend our thanks to all of you for your hard work over the last year in helping make our new site a reality. This has been a monumental undertaking for our tiny staff of three. I think the site accomplishes what we first set out to do – engage users with different interests and skill sets and expose the richness of the records that we have been entrusted to safeguard on behalf of the Jewish community of Ontario.

Your professionalism, skills and problem-solving abilities have been of tremendous value to us and we are grateful for the time that you have spent trouble-shooting to make sure that everything works at its best. It has been a pleasure working with you.“ [Donna Bernardo-Ceriz, Assistant Archivist]

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