Wednesday 2 May 2018

Introducing our new and improved online catalogue!

If you’re a regular visitor to our online catalogue Borthcat (and if you aren’t I recommend checking it out!) you may have noticed a few changes lately.  This is because we’ve made the upgrade to AtoM 2.4, the latest release from Artefactual systems who develop AtoM, or Access to Memory, the archives management system we use here at the Borthwick.  

We first launched Borthcat in April 2016 with 376 top level descriptions of our archival collections and 578 authority records (histories of the individuals, families or organisations which created or featured in them).  Since then Borthcat has grown enormously, reaching users in 136 different countries.  As of April 2018 it boasts 563 top level descriptions and over one thousand related authority records.  A significant number of these archives now also have full catalogues available online, including the Borthwick’s Yorkshire hospital archives, the archive of the Earls of Halifax, and the archives of the Rowntree Company and Vickers scientific instrument makers.

We are always looking to improve Borthcat and make it more accessible and intuitive for our users.  We created a special guide for those users looking for wills or other probate documents that can be accessed whenever someone clicks in the search box.  We also backed up our detailed help page with a page of frequently asked questions and a glossary of terms to help users better understand the way the catalogue works.

The new AtoM release adds yet more improvements that we hope will fill in some of the gaps on Borthcat and introduce new ways of navigating the ever growing mass of information it holds.

So what’s new about AtoM 2.4 and why should you care?

You can search by date

 You might be surprised to learn this wasn’t previously a feature of Borthcat.  When most of the archival descriptions were ‘top level’ or fonds level descriptions this was not such an issue, but now Borthcat has so many full catalogues the ability to filter your search results by date or to sort search results by start or end dates will be incredibly useful.  Are you looking for patient records at The Retreat hospital but only for the 1860s? Just open the advanced search, search for ‘patient records’ in ‘The Retreat Archive’ and fill in the ‘filter by date range’ fields with the earliest and latest date of your search.

Equally you could open The Retreat Archive, select ‘Browse as list’ from the ‘Explore’ menu to the right and order your results in order of the start or end dates.  

Or perhaps you just want to know what our earliest dated archival collection is (the Takamiya Fragments Collection dating from 900 AD) or our most recent (too many to list! We are constantly adding to existing archives).

One of our Takimaya Fragments

You can keep track of the records you’re interested in

Another new feature that we think will be very popular with both users and staff is the clipboard function, as represented by the paperclip seen here on the top right of the page.

As you look through archival descriptions or authority records on Borthcat you will see the paperclip symbol on every entry when you browse archival descriptions as a list (with the text ‘Add to clipboard’ appearing when you hover over it with your mouse) or the option to ‘add’ to the right of an entry after you open it.  

Clicking on it automatically adds the record to your clipboard which can then be opened using the button at the top of the page.  This works for any authority record and any archival description (at any level of description from fonds down to item) and it means you can create a list of the records you are interested in as you browse, saving yourself the job of writing them out!  Moreover, once you’ve created your list in clipboard you can use the ‘print preview’ button to save the list as an image which can be kept for your own research or emailed directly to us if you’d like to preorder some records before you visit.
Tip:  If you’re saving both archival descriptions and authority records to your clipboard be aware these will display as two separate lists and that you will have to toggle between the two using the ‘Entity type’ drop down menu.

You can see the whole archive structure at once

The clipboard button isn’t the only change you’ll see when you open an archive catalogue on Borthcat.  Whereas before the full hierarchical arrangement of a catalogue was displayed to the left in a small sidebar, now it can be clearly seen at the top of the page.  

If you’ve had experience of navigating a catalogue through the sidebar the advantages to this new page-width display will be obvious.  You can now see the whole of the catalogue structure at once, without long titles being truncated by limitations of space. You can also expand each level to its fullest without concealing the rest of the archive.  You can also expand the display window to take up the full page should you wish!

We can upload or generate finding aids for you more easily

Finally the upgrade to AtoM 2.4 means we have new ways to share finding aids with our users.  We can now generate them from full catalogues already available on Borthcat - or we can upload our paper finding aids for archives that currently have only a top level archival description online.  The latter replaces a rather cumbersome system of linking across to paper finding aids that we’d uploaded to a hidden page on our website, a workaround we used to great success with our parish record collection but which was far from ideal as a long term solution.  

Now users will be able to download full catalogues to browse offline, to share, print out and annotate as needed - just look for the ‘download’ button on the right of the entry!  

To begin with we will only be uploading the finding aids that were already available as linked documents, but going forward we will be generating new finding aids from complete online catalogues and using our Twitter and Facebook accounts to let people know when these become available.

Looking to the future

AtoM 2.4 brings a number of useful new features to Borthcat but this first upgrade is only the beginning.  AtoM is under constant development, both by Artefactual and by its global user community, and future releases promise yet more innovations alongside improvements to its existing functions.  We would welcome your feedback on Borthcat, the new features, or even features you would like to see in the future - you can let us know what you think here. In the meantime we will continue to add new catalogues, new authority records, and new finding aids - so be sure to keep an eye on our ‘newest additions’ list!

Now you’ve heard about all of the new features, why not try them out for yourselves?

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