After we published the news of the shut down of the old Digital Archives, the activity in the debate forums and other channels has picked up. Everyone working with the Digital Archives, both in Oslo and in Bergen, really appreciate the users's participation. Having such enthusiastic users is very stimulating! Some of the input has emphasized that some functionality will be missing in the new system, and we humbly acknowledge the fact. But at the same time the old system was not ideal either.
As both historian and political scientist working with the Digital Archives has been both exciting and challenging. Creating a solution that covers so many different forms of content is challenging. This is due to the very wide variety of types of content and very large time frame that the Digital Archives are trying to cover.
A very substantial difference between the new Digital Archives (DA) and the old (ODA) is that users are now able to search across all sources at once. But this functionality depends on the material being as streamlined as possible, demanding us to clean up the data, and especially the dates. Some work on this front is still needed, especially as mistakes and flaws are much more visible in the new system.
One of DA's goals has been to make the publication of data as simple as possible, so that anyone could do it. You should not need to be a computer scientist in order to publish data in the DA. This has been difficult to accomplish, especially concerning data that does not pertain to a specific structure. Developing a functional operative panel for importing and publishing data has hence taken longer than at first projected. The project commenced on 1. November last year, and only during summer this year could we start using it. Luckily the solution created has proved effective. During the month of July a student working for the DA over the summer published more than 200 church book files. These had been neglected for more than two years, awaiting a more efficient system. During this autumn a substantial amount of church book data has been corrected, and entirely new material has also been published. We still have some church book data that awaits publication. As of December 2013 we are running 3 months late. This is due to trying to develop the new system one step further - to publish data that is neither a census record nor a parish register.
From August till October we have been trying to develop a function that would allow us to establish searches, as well as the viewing of data, without the help of programmers. While the census records and the church book registers follow a very particular structure and have customized search forms and models for viewing, this is not the case with the other types of sources. Thus we depended on a solution that would decide both what data should be searched, as well as how the data should be viewed. With the new operative panel we could now import, establish searches and viewing, and then publish the data, all in one operation.
Our status entering the new year is as follows:
We have finished an intense year which has seen a revolution in the way we work and the tools we use for publishing data in DA. But we will unfortunately not be able to transfer everything in time for 01.01.2014, as we initially hoped to do.
We are looking forward to improving users' functionality in DA. We have several ideas regarding changes and improvements, and several of these are based on input received through the debate forum. We will continue improving functionality, so that the Digital Archives will be an even better service than it is today. So please continue giving us constructive feedback. It is of immense value!