Tuesday, 28 January 2014

CALM has instilled some calm

Something very exciting happened last week, something very very exciting for the National Theatre Archive.   We launched our new and up to date online catalogue via CALMView.  This project has been in the pipeline for the past few months and I am delighted that it is now available for all to see.

The first thing we had to decide when planning the online catalogue was how much of our catalogue to make visible online.  Previously we had the whole catalogue represented online regardless of description accuracy or whether the materials were open to public access (and nothing post-2005ish was represented).  It was a difficult decision to make but we decided to concentrate on cleaning the data for a core ten series, which are accessed most by researchers such as programmes, posters, photographs and production recordings and make these visible on the online catalogue with reference made to the rest of the collections.  A lot of work was also done to make the performance and role data more accurate and consistent but there is still a lot of work to do.

One of the features of CALM, when using the performance module, is to use linking to connect the various databases.  This has been invaluable in producing an online catalogue that allows you to manoeuvre seamlessly between the catalogue, performance database and name authority files.

We created a new 'Contact Us' form through Google forms since this was the only contact form that was compatible with CALMView (we had quite a few ideas that would not be supported by the software).  This then feeds through to a Google Doc, which in turn feeds through to a new Gmail account.  It was quite complicated to get the full form content to come through via email but after some coding tutorials and trial and error it is now fixed and we get a full email for each enquiry so that we don't need to log in to the spreadsheet at all.

The part of this project that I have enjoyed the most (apart from the data cleaning, which I find rather therapeutic) is the inter-departmental aspect.  An IT manager co-ordinated the team's time and I worked with members of IT, Graphics, Programming and Digital.  It was quite a learning curve working with so many others, all of whom were based on a different site and all had other projects and differing priority levels for my project.  Tele-conferences were another new addition but very helpful for checking in on developments and saving me the 30 minute round trip to the main site!

I am rather pleased with the final result but this is only a stopgap until the new NT website has been completed at some point over the next year.  We will then have a whole new archive section, which will be far more user friendly and relevant to our researchers.  But, for now, we have better presence online and that is worth celebrating in my book!