Searching 60 Million Pages of Canadian History

Saw an interesting (if really brief) story in the Telegram about a new Web site called The Canadiana Discovery Portal, which searches through 60 million pages of Canada history from 14 different institutions. You can visit it at http://beta.canadiana.ca/co/en. It’s in beta, as you can tell by the page, and this of course is the English version; there’s a link to the French version on this page.

It looks like a Google Custom search (I don’t think it is; that’s just what it looks like.) Simple keyword search. I did a search for Ottawa, and got over 62,000 results, so I abandoned that and did a search for locomotive.

There are still almost 3,000 results for locomotive and that’s a bit daunting. But take a look at the navigation across the top of the search results page. You can change the order of results (relevance, newest, oldest), and restrict your results to particular languages (in this case English, French, German, or Ojibwa, though in one search I saw Hindu, Swedish, Italian, and Latin, along with several Native American languages and even Chinese.) You can restrict your results to a media type (712 locomotive images!) and look for a specific contributing institution or narrow to a certain date range. In short, these navigation results make it super easy to narrow down your search results in several comprehensive ways.

And what of the results themselves? I found a lot of photographs, of course, but also individual pages from texts (A page of language from The Esquimaux their life, customs and manners had me baffled until I saw a reference to “locomotion”), press releases, typed statements, and entire books (“Cyclopedia of engineering;: a manual of steam boilers, steam pumps, steam engines, gas and oil engines, marine and locomotive work”) Clicking on an item in the search results list takes you directly to the that item at the holding institution’s Web site.

I would love an RSS feed. I would love a quick way to do a search within a search. But this is nice. The options for zeroing in on results are terrific. If you’re interested in Canadian history this is a must-visit.

About Tara Calishain

Covering the world of search engines, databases, and other online information collections since 1996.

Posted on January 18, 2011, in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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