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"I have nothing to do here, but to take the Air, enquire for News, talk Politicks and write Letters."

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 30 June 1774

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Online Adams Catalog: The Public Interface

The public interface created for the Adams Digital Control File project is called the Online Adams Catalog (OAC). It features three ways at getting at the data of the catalog: a Basic Search, an Advanced Search, and the Record Number Search. I'll try to discuss each in a clear way! This blog post will look at the Basic Search.

Using the catalog is pretty easy if you are familiar with using catalogs. We (will) provide some Popular Searches, which will do some of the work for you. We will feature a "Key to Initials" which will help identify Adams family members and the ways in which their names appear throughout the catalog. There will be an "About the catalog" page, too, which should help to define what it includes, what it does and does not do, etc.

In the Basic Search, users will have the option of searching by name (author, recipient, and either), by date, and by documents visible online. However, please note that as the interface is still being developed, some of this information may change. Apologies in advance if this is the case.

For name searching, users will select whether they want to search by author, recipient, or either/or. Once you click the desired option,
users will have the option of selecting from a "Quick List" of major players or by typing in a search box. Following library conventions, type in the last name, first name style. As you begin to type a name, a list of possibilities will display from which you will make your choice. What I mean is if you type in "Jeffer" and pause, you will see in the list that all those names beginning "Jeffer." As we are probably looking for "Jefferson, Thomas," we find easily that he is the third returned name.

Searching by dates is perhaps a little easier to describe? You'll see two areas to search: a "from" and a "to". You don't have to search by dates, but it is useful if you want to really narrow down your results. There are some tricky aspects to date searching though!

In the catalog, many documents were written over the course of time. Examples would be a diary or letterbooks, which can contain documents that can cover years. But letters, themselves, were sometimes written over many days, if not weeks or longer. We call these span dates. In the date search area, you can eliminate results that span beyond a specific date range. An example might best illustrate this aspect:

I searched for instances where John Quincy Adams was either an author or recipient of a document in the Adams Papers within the date range of January 1775 and December 1815. This returned 11,266 results. By selecting the option to eliminate span dates, the results were lowered to 11,233.Not the best example, not the most reasonable or intelligent search criteria, but it does show that it removes some documents. A very brief look at the results found that by restricting the query to remove span dates, an essay composed between 11 February 1778-March 1824 was removed.

Documents Online
Selecting the third option in the Basic Search will return results for which an online version of the actual document is available. It should be stated now, VERY LOUD AND CLEAR, that not all the documents for which there is a catalog record are available online. Most of the catalog is not available online, in fact. But when something is online there are options to view it. The kinds of things you can expect to see online are transcriptions of printed volumes, scanned images of printed volumes, scanned images of manuscripts or microfilm, and transcriptions of scanned images of manuscripts and microfilm. I think that covers everything!

This search limiter is one way to go about finding them! For a test, I searched for documents originated by John Adams where Thomas Jefferson was the recipient. I selected the option to only return results that were online. I got two results. (By removing the online option, I see that there are actually 379 documents.) The first is a letter dated 26 May 1777 (record number 012746). On the slip, the right hand area will give you information about where the document can be found (in a printed source, in an online display, etc.) and then there is option to view it.

The catalog will go live in early July. The next post will discuss the Advance searching options, which as the name suggests includes everything you can do in a Basic Search...and more!

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