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
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!