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.

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