Refresh for the Arnprior & McNab/Braeside Archives website and collections search.

by Kathy Bryce Thursday, December 08, 2016 1:36 PM

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

2016-03-30_14-16-31   AMBA_Search

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!

ARLIS Launches Susitna Doc Finder VuFind Catalog

by Jonathan Jacobsen Monday, October 10, 2016 1:09 PM

Over the past couple of years, Andornot has helped the Alaska Resources Library & Information Services (ARLIS) launch, then upgrade, a VuFind-powered catalog of Alaska North Slope natural gas pipeline work from the past 40 years. 

A second VuFind catalog has recently been added to the ARLIS site: the Susitna Doc Finder

The Susitna Doc Finder is a comprehensive catalog of documents that have resulted from every phase of the historic 1980s Susitna Hydroelectric Project (SuHydro Project), as well as those documents continually being produced since 2010 under the current Susitna-Watana Hydroelectric Project (SuWa Project).

Records for this catalog are managed in both a MARC cataloguing ILS, as well as a local Inmagic DB/TextWorks database. Exports from both are indexed nightly by VuFind, using heavily customized import mappings and additional fields and browse indexes. 

Almost all records link to PDF reports from the project. Text is extracted from these and indexed, to complement the excellent initial metadata. 

Cover images of these PDF reports are generated during indexing and appear in search results, in several sizes, both for visual interest, and to give a glimpse of a report before clicking to download it.

The web interface uses a VuFind theme built from the ever-popular Twitter Bootstrap responsive web framework. Almost all of Andornot's web projects use this or a similar responsive framework to provide the same level of access on devices of all sizes and shapes, from full-size desktop browsers down to tablets and phones.

Results from this VuFind system are also available through Google, as Google has crawled and indexed the VuFind system.

Further information:

Contact us to discuss options for a discovery interface style of search for your catalogue or other collection, using VuFind or the Andornot Discovery Interface.

Discover the fascinating artifacts in the Museum of Health Care collection

by Kathy Bryce Tuesday, August 30, 2016 10:13 AM

The Museum of Health Care based in Kingston, Ontario is home to more than 35,000 artifacts, from surgical tools to laboratory instruments, which bring to life the story of medical care from the 18th century to the present day. The Museum has used the Inmagic DB/TextWorks software for many years to catalog and manage the collection, but was using a very old version and the web search interface was rudimentary and did nothing to showcase the artifacts.

The Museum received grant funding and Andornot was hired to provide updates that both met their administrative needs, and improved accessibility to the collection for the public.   We completely revamped the internal artifacts DB/TextWorks database to current standards by implementing our best practices in database design, adding validation lists and cleaning out unused fields and reports. MHC_search_page

However, the fun part was designing the new search of the collections using our Andornot Discovery Interface (AnDI).  It was hard not to get sidetracked looking at some of the bizarre and scary implements! For example, check out the tools for tooth extraction such as the tooth key from circa 1750. Virtually all the items in the collection have images attached which can be viewed in either a list view alongside details of the item, or in a gallery view for quick browsing.

The main collections search page features a quick search box plus "canned searches" for quick access to the main categories such as Cardiology, Dermatology, Obstetrics etc. There is also a slider of images of featured items showcasing various implements, uniforms, bottles and a medicine chest.

The Museum has captured a wealth of information about each item, all of which is searchable.  Search results can be narrowed down by facets for general category, a more in depth classification and MeSH headings.  There is a date facet, plus facets for where the object was made and the manufacturer if these are known. 

Museums and other heritage institutions may borrow items from the collection for their own exhibits, and they can now easily search, select items and send off a request for an object loan to the Museum.  Museum staff are also using this feature to compile sets of records to send to researchers in a PDF report. 

Records can easily be shared on social media such as Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter and MHC_results_pagePinterest, or details can be emailed to a colleague.  Already, the feedback option has been used to help identify information in a set of photographs, and Museum staff are now using the permalink feature to link back to records in their regular “What is it Wednesday” Facebook posts. The new search interface, as with all our new Andornot sites, is designed for use with mobile phones and tablets as well as desktop computers.

The feedback from the Museum staff and users has been very positive.  “ I truly love the new improved version!” and “we receive numerous praise for the new on-line catalogue and how easy it is to use and find objects”, says Kathy Karkut, Collections Manager. “Thank you for your patience as the Museum organized a server, and for the beautiful end product.” Jenny Stepa, Museum Manager and Program Director. The database is maintained locally at the Museum whilst hosting and maintenance of the web search interface is provided by Andornot.

Take a look at some of our other projects using AnDI and contact us for a demo!

Automating Municipal Records Transfers to an Archives

by Jonathan Jacobsen Monday, May 16, 2016 8:23 PM

Andornot recently helped a municipal archives save hours of manual work when civic records are transferred to them, by automating part of the data transfer process. 

This municipal archives uses Inmagic DB/TextWorks to manage their collections. The many departments in the municipality complete a form when they are transferring records to the archives. The form is a fillable PDF form, but when the archives receives it with the records, they still need to re-key, or copy and paste, data into their DB/TextWorks system.

This fillable PDF form was altered so that a Submit button placed prominently on the form generates an XML file in Adobe's .xfdf format. Andornot developed an XSLT that can be used by DB/TextWorks' data import feature to transform data from this XML file into DB/TextWorks records. The XSLT selects appropriate data from the XML, and adds some default values like the material type, some notes, etc. 

Dozens of records can now be imported in seconds or minutes, ready for the archives to review and edit further.

Further automation is also possible using the Inmagic Importer, which can monitor a folder and import files when they appear. This would allow the archives to drop multiple XML files from the transfer forms into a folder at once and then a few minutes later, access those records in the DB/TextWorks database.

Approaches like this are great for all sorts of institutions. Another common example is libraries sourcing catalogue records from other catalogues, such as by using BookWhere software, and importing those records into their catalogue, through DB/TextWorks or Genie.

Contact Andornot for assistance improving your workflow  and automating repetitive tasks like this example.

Succession planning and your databases

by Kathy Bryce Tuesday, May 03, 2016 8:45 PM

We’ve heard recently from several long time clients that they are retiring soon or considering a move to another job. Most are concerned about their “legacy” when they leave, and so we have been talking about succession planning with regard to their databases.  Many have been using Inmagic software for many years and know it well.  However for their replacement coming in fresh, it’d be helpful to provide some documentation and background information, especially if there is no overlap and the new person will be faced with learning the software on their own.

Sometimes it’s hard to look at a system from an outsiders perspective especially if “it works fine and has always been that way”. For example, we came across a client recently who used basic everything, i.e. basic query screens, basic reports and basic edit screen.  He regularly needed to work on writing abstracts which often exceeded the default 3 lines provided in a basic edit screen, so he would use the scroll bar up and down to view the contents as he typed.  

image edit-ASK

Basic edit screen

Edit screen from the Andornot Starter Kit with field groupings, boxes sized for contents, added help tips.

It was something he’d never thought about, but he had to admit that creating a new edit screen with the box height set as unlimited made life much, much easier. Basic screens also always list fields in the textbase structure order, but fields may have been added over the years resulting in no logical groupings.  Think how confusing working with basic screens will be to a newcomer to your system!

We therefore suggest you make it easier on your successor by doing a check of the usability of your databases and writing up notes on your infrastructure. This will also be helpful for new IT staff, and if you have to contact Inmagic for support.

  • Which version of the software is installed and what are the serial numbers?  What is the operating system of the server? Where is the software installed and who has access set up to use it?  Are there any older versions of the software that should be uninstalled?
  • Where are all your databases located on the server?  In multiple folders?  Are any restricted to certain staff or have other special permissions? Do they have passwords? Are there any older copies that may have been saved as backups or are the remnants of recover operations?  Search for *.tba or *.cba to check, then delete the duplicate copies now to avoid confusion later. Are there any obsolete or test databases that could be deleted or archived?
  • Are all your database field names clear and unambiguous?  In older versions of DB/TextWorks there was a limit to their length so we’ve seen some pretty cryptic abbreviations!  Are all the fields in use still?
  • Do you have unused report forms or edit screens.  Are they named clearly and consistently?
  • If you have Genie or WebPublisher PRO, where are these installed and what is the web address and full UNC server path? Do you have access to these folders?  If you have DB/Text for SQL, do you have access to the Admin tool? Is the Importer set up for automated import of data?  If so, what is the source and the format?
  • For WebPublisher PRO are there test or unused query screens? Is the data live immediately or is there some script that transfer databases nightly to a webserver? (This can cause much head scratching trying to figure out why changes don’t appear if this workflow is not documented.)
  • If you haven’t upgraded to version 15 or 15.5 yet, note that this requires an upgrade to your textbases and thus the textbase and forms creation date will be updated too.  This was previously a handy way of checking on the vintage to help determine the history and retention value.

Check out our series of blog posts from last year on Spring Cleanup for your Databases which provide some detailed suggestions covering many of these points:

See also our post on Retirement Planning for Servers. Please contact us if you need any assistance.  We are available to analyze your databases and infrastructure and can write up a report and/or implement changes to your databases to make them easier for your successor to work with.

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