Exploring the new Manuscripts & Pictorial website - 1December 15th, 2008
At the launch I said that we had set out to make the website as simple as it could possibly be, but no simpler.
How users would find their particular needles in such a huge haystack of digitised content was a key concern of the project. We didn't want to just put a keyword search box on the front page and then list the user's 10,000 hits in "order of relevance". Instead we built early prototypes and tested them extensively, amongst ourselves, and with real users.
After using and refining the system on a day to day basis for over a year, we are confident that what we have launched really is as simple as it can possibly be, but no simpler. And it's extraordinarily powerful.
And I don't just mean that the system contains a great deal of detailed and precise information about the individual items in the collection, essentially the who/what/when/where/why of 30,000 documents and 60,000 images.
The real power of this system is that you can intersect your search terms interactively, allowing you to easily narrow or broaden your search until you have just the documents you're looking for. This is faceted search, which I will explain and demonstrate below.
Faceted Search using Filters
When you start your search by typing one or two words and hitting Search, it's likely you'll find too many results. Let's say we want to search the Donald McLean Papers for material related to Sir William Fox:
Typing "Fox" in the Quick Search box on the home page gives us 882 results.
On the right hand side we can now start adding filters until we have found just those results we're looking for.
Ticking McLean Papers as the Digital Collection reduces the number of documents found to 590 results from the McLean Papers.
Filtering further by Name: Person: Fox, William (Sir) reduces the number of documents to 323 results related to Sir William Fox (thereby omitting results from other people or animals with the same name).
Filtering further by Fox, William (Sir) as the Recipient of the letter gives 101 results where the letter was also addressed to Sir William Fox.
Filtering further by Sir Francis Dillon Bell as the Author of the letter gives 10 results for letters written by Sir Francis Dillon bell to Sir William Fox.
Filtering further down to decade:1870s gives 6 results for letters written by Sir Francis Dillon bell to Sir William Fox in the 1870s.
Having found what you were looking for, you might then look through the results one at a time.
To remove a filter, uncheck its tick box. By unchecking 1870s, for instance, you will see the 10 results for letters written by Sir Francis Dillon bell to Sir William Fox.
To start a new search without any filters, use the search box in the very top right corner of the screen.