The Museum of Health Care based in Kingston, Ontario is home to more than 35,000 artifacts, from surgical tools to laboratory instruments, which bring to life the story of medical care from the 18th century to the present day. The Museum has used the Inmagic DB/TextWorks software for many years to catalog and manage the collection, but was using a very old version and the web search interface was rudimentary and did nothing to showcase the artifacts.
The Museum received grant funding and Andornot was hired to provide updates that both met their administrative needs, and improved accessibility to the collection for the public. We completely revamped the internal artifacts DB/TextWorks database to current standards by implementing our best practices in database design, adding validation lists and cleaning out unused fields and reports.
However, the fun part was designing the new search of the collections using our Andornot Discovery Interface (AnDI). It was hard not to get sidetracked looking at some of the bizarre and scary implements! For example, check out the tools for tooth extraction such as the tooth key from circa 1750. Virtually all the items in the collection have images attached which can be viewed in either a list view alongside details of the item, or in a gallery view for quick browsing.
The main collections search page features a quick search box plus "canned searches" for quick access to the main categories such as Cardiology, Dermatology, Obstetrics etc. There is also a slider of images of featured items showcasing various implements, uniforms, bottles and a medicine chest.
The Museum has captured a wealth of information about each item, all of which is searchable. Search results can be narrowed down by facets for general category, a more in depth classification and MeSH headings. There is a date facet, plus facets for where the object was made and the manufacturer if these are known.
Museums and other heritage institutions may borrow items from the collection for their own exhibits, and they can now easily search, select items and send off a request for an object loan to the Museum. Museum staff are also using this feature to compile sets of records to send to researchers in a PDF report.
Records can easily be shared on social media such as Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter and Pinterest, or details can be emailed to a colleague. Already, the feedback option has been used to help identify information in a set of photographs, and Museum staff are now using the permalink feature to link back to records in their regular “What is it Wednesday” Facebook posts. The new search interface, as with all our new Andornot sites, is designed for use with mobile phones and tablets as well as desktop computers.
The feedback from the Museum staff and users has been very positive. “ I truly love the new improved version!” and “we receive numerous praise for the new on-line catalogue and how easy it is to use and find objects”, says Kathy Karkut, Collections Manager. “Thank you for your patience as the Museum organized a server, and for the beautiful end product.” Jenny Stepa, Museum Manager and Program Director. The database is maintained locally at the Museum whilst hosting and maintenance of the web search interface is provided by Andornot.