State Records NSW’s new API is designed primarily as a framework to allow the development of new web services (both internally by State Records staff and by external developers). Nevertheless the creation of the API has provided us with an opportunity to experiment with new ways of presenting collection search results and this aspect of the project may be of interest to all researchers using the collection.
In this post I describe key features of the API’s collection search and also some of the more advanced functionality you can access ‘under the hood’. To try the collection search yourself, go to: http://api.records.nsw.gov.au.
What, why and who
Rather than presenting search results as a simple list, the API’s collection search provides a structured view, clustering results according to three questions:
- what records (both record series and individual items) relate to the query?
- why might records relating to the query have been created by Government (Government functions and activities)?
- who in Government (agencies and people) might have created records relating to the query?
(For those interested in archival theory, this three-part division matches Australian archivist Chris Hurley’s conception of archival description as comprising three essential types of entity: documents, deeds and doers.)
Simple search, but not too simple
The new search box might look ‘simple’ but sophisticated searching of the catalogue is still possible.
Swamped with too many hits? Use the two ‘filters’ in the right-hand column of the results page to drill down to more relevant results. The date filter narrows results by date range. The series filter allows you to see at a glance the key record series relating to your query and narrow your results to particular series.
If you are a ‘power user’ you can include these filters in your initial search by adding the following special keywords to your query:
- series:[series id number]
For example, the following query will just return record items dating between 1900 and 1950:
Incorporating the new collection search into your browser
Fallen in love with the new collection search? If you use a modern version of firefox or internet explorer, you can take it with you anywhere you go on the internet by including it amongst the ‘search providers’ in your browser’s search box (next to the main address box). This will allow you to quickly search State Records’ collection wherever you happen to be browsing. To do this:
- go to http://api.records.nsw.gov.au
- if you are on internet explorer, do this:
Or, if you are on firefox do this:
The API’s collection search is, like the API itself, still in an experimental mode. If you have any suggestions for how it might be improved we would love to hear them (and we might try to implement them). Please post your ideas as comments to this post.