Category Archives: Reading Room

More improvements to our online search

We’ve recently updated our online search to add a few new features.Date-range-location


In response to your suggestions, we sponsored development of an improved date search. It’s in Advanced Search, on the left sidebar. Continue reading

Microfilm Scanners

In the last couple of years, we’ve been replacing our old, analogue microform reader-printers with new digital microform scanners. We’d like to show you why researchers like them so much.

Microform workstation with Indus 4601-SL scanner.

Microform workstation with Indus 4601-SL scanner.

Microforms still have to be used by researchers, as we have hundreds of reels of film and thousands of fiche and aperture cards. These new scanners provide fast and convenient viewing and saving of images.

The workstations can be used with many styles of microform and will also scan to file or scan to print.

The scanners will work with all these different styles and colours of fiche, aperture card and film.

The scanners will work with all these different styles and colours of fiche, aperture card and film.

The scanners produce crisp, high-resolution scans and will scan in colour, greyscale or bi-tonal. Images can be cropped and rotated. Scans can be saved in common formats like PDF or TIFF.

Screenshot from a fire insurance plan.

Screenshot from a fire insurance plan.

The workstations have a wireless internet connection, so saved scans can be sent through email or dropped into cloud storage, as well as copied to a flash drive. Note that if you keep a copy of a work that is under copyright to a party that is not the City of Vancouver, you are responsible for obtaining permission of the copyright owner for publication. You may use the copy for fair dealing purposes covered by the Canadian Copyright Act, such as private study.

The scanners are attached to 27” monitors to provide a readable full-screen view of maps, plans and other large-format originals.

If you have used one of our microfilm scanners, we’d love to hear your feedback!

Our online search has been upgraded

You may have noticed that our SearchArchives database looks a little different. For example, the information for a full record is in a more compact form, reducing the amount of scrolling you’ll have to do.

Illustration of reduced screen area for new results

Screenshots of identical dimensions show the dramatic difference. The old version is on the left and the new one on the right.

The software has recently been upgraded to version 2.1 of AtoM. Most of the changes in the updated version affect how things are handled behind the scenes. Besides the example above, there are other changes that affect users:

Improved search times. Updates to the search index have reduced the time it takes the database to respond to your search query.

Searchable subject and place terms. There is a search box that appears on the Browse Subjects and Browse Places pages that allows you to search for specific terms, rather than just browse them.  Be sure to hit the magnifying glass symbol (indicated below) to search.

Search results for subject term “building*”.

Search results for subject term “building*”.

Better list of search results. There has been a change to the results algorithm that will give you results in a slightly different order.

Results of searching for “dog”. The old version is on the left and the new one on the right.

Results of searching for “dog”. The old version is on the left and the new one on the right.

We are anticipating further improvements to our SearchArchives database with the AtoM 2.2 release later this summer.

Improved online search: faster and with new features

We’ve updated our online search and we think you’ll like the changes in both function and design. Here are some of the main ones.

It’s much faster. The search engine is completely new and the difference in search times is noticeable.

Simple search gives suggestions as you type a search term. This gives you another way to find holdings.simple-search-suggestions






Continue reading

Improved online search: copyrighted digital objects

When we first told you about our new search system, we said that it was on a rapid development cycle and that there would be improvements. We’re pleased to tell you about one upgrade that gives you on-site access to thousands more digital objects and another that makes it easier to do research at home. Developed for us by Artefactual Systems, these open source enhancements could be adapted by other institutions using the same database software.

The big change

Until now, digital objects that were under the copyright of a 3rd party (other than City of Vancouver’s copyright) could only be viewed online as a tiny thumbnail. Now they can be viewed in full resolution in our Reading Room through our online search. This works on your laptop in the Reading Room (using our wifi) as well as at our public computers. Continue reading

And…Action! On set in the Archives Reading Room.

Here at the Archives, we’re used to working with pre-existing documents and media, though we recently decided to try our hand at creating something new. The idea arose to make a video introducing and promoting our public reading room, which is open for anyone to come and conduct research.

The first step was to find inspiration. Prior to our new video, proper Reading Room protocol had been communicated through a series of humorous “Dos” and “Don’ts” photos. We loved the way it was fun and tongue-in-cheek while getting the important facts across.

This series of posters created by the then-Public Archives of Canada (now Library and Archives Canada) shows good and bad Reading Room behavior. Don’t behave like the gorilla!

One other work we enjoyed while preparing this video was created by our friend and colleague at the United Church of Canada BC Conference Archives, the late Bob Stewart, entitled “The Archives – More than a Holding Operation”. The title makes its way into a line in our video, our own little tribute. Unlike Bob, our Archives does not have access to a choir – and none of us can boast rapping skills (well, one of our interns, but we could not convince her to go on camera). Continue reading

Our New Online Search

The City of Vancouver Archives has a new online search! We’re excited about it for a number of reasons:

  • It allows us to show you the relationships between records and between records and their creators
  • Browsing by subject, place or creator is much easier
  • You can view and download larger digital objects, so you can study more detail
  • Search result URLs are permalinks

Continue reading

Our Researchers – Will Langford

Originally from Calgary, Will Langford has been pursuing his post-secondary education at UBC, where he completed a B.A. in history and is currently working on his M.A. thesis, the working title of which reads, “Is Sutton Brown God?” Planning, Expertise, and the Local State in Vancouver.” (Gerald Sutton Brown was Vancouver’s first Director of Planning.)

Will Langford

Ever interested in all things urban (as opposed to outdoorsy things like camping. . . ), Will became intrigued with the concept of urban planning during an undergraduate course on the history of Vancouver, taught by Professor Robert A. J. McDonald, where he was introduced to the notion of the relationship between the built environment and society. Curious about the underlying assumptions behind the claims of planners that only their expertise could result in better societies, and driven by his observation that things turned out quite differently, Will began to investigate. Continue reading