New online catalogue released

I’m pleased to announce the launch of the beta version of our new online catalogue. With over a year’s development behind it, and with more to come over the next year, we’re happy to open the new catalogue for use. You can try it by visiting http://bpma.orangeleaf.org.

New description.

New description.

A beta version is not a finished product, but it is at a stage where we want our users to have the opportunity to try it out and to let us know what they think about it. What works and what doesn’t work? What do you really like? What would you change? How can it be improved? These are questions only our users can really answer. We’ve done user-testing amongst our staff and our volunteers, and we’ll be asking visitors to our search room to try it out and tell us what they think – but we’d like your thoughts on how it works both as a research tool and as a way to find out more about our collections.

So let’s outline the key features:

  • New search engine – already tried in a number of archive, museum and gallery catalogues. It returns results based on relevancy, but can also be sorted by title, date and level.
  • Bigger images – over 22,000 images are available and we’ve increased their size so that they’re easier to see. Searches can also be restricted to show only those records which contain images.
New image.

New image.

Old image.

Old image.

  • Faceted categories – the catalogue automatically indexes terms within the records to create categories for results. We can also add specific terms and keywords for indexing purposes.
  • Tags – users can contribute their own keywords to records. We will review these regularly and may add them to the keyword lists in the catalogue.
  • Better tools for navigating archive records – a hierarchical tree which can be navigated at ease, opening up the archive so that viewers can easily see how it is organised.
New hierarchy.

New hierarchy.

Old hierarchy.

Old hierarchy.

There is still work to be done on the beta catalogue before it can replace our existing catalogue. Images for some records are missing, and the advanced search tools need further work to make them function fully. We also need to develop the supporting pages that show how the catalogue works and those which highlight aspects of the collection.

There may also be other problems that our testing has yet to uncover, which is where your use of the catalogue can help us. You can report any problems you may find, or suggest improvements to the way it works and looks. Any comments, suggestions or issues about the beta catalogue can be sent to me at catalogue@postalheritage.org.uk.

We will be running the new beta catalogue alongside the current catalogue, allowing users to try both and provide feedback. We will be retiring the old catalogue in July. Over the course of July, we’ll be renewing the links in our website that take viewers to our old catalogue so that they’ll be taken to the new one instead. Please bear with us while this work is undertaken.

The launch of the beta catalogue is only the first phase of a larger development of the catalogue. The next phase will see the testing of document ordering facilities, meaning researchers will be able to request material to the search room in advance of their visit. We’ll also be looking at ways for users to order and receive digitised documents directly from the catalogue. Alongside these major developments we’ll look to enrich the ways in which records are viewed. In particular, we’ll look at how many objects and documents from the collection are related to specific locations (including plans, photographs, objects and other documents) and test ways of placing them on maps. We’ll also test the delivery of ultra-high resolution images of the best items from our collections and ways of delivering the models of objects created by our 3D scanning project.

-Martin Devereux, Head of Digital

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