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.
Dang it! I missed the 2010 International Day for Migratory Birds. I had plans to put up my birdhouse with tinsel and little lights too. HALLMARK YOU BETRAYED ME!
Oh well, I can wait until next year, and in the meantime use a recently-announced tool to identify the birds that hang around in the backyard. Dendroica is available at http://www.natureinstruct.org/dendroica. This site does not have the most extensive number of details on each bird, but it’s easy to search and incredibly easy to browse a large number of birds at a time.
When you first visit the site you can choose being a visitor from Canada, the US, or Mexico. once you’ve chosen you’ll get a list of species available (in the US there are 642) and a search box for narrowing them down. Click on a bird in the search box and you’ll see a picture and hear an example of the bird’s song. (Very occasionally there is not a picture available for a bird.) Underneath the picture is a description of the birds’ song and in almost all cases links to hear more versions of the bird’s song and see more pictures. If you can’t think of what bird you want to hear/see there’s also a link to get a random bird from the list.
There’s no data about habitat, or range, or anything like that, but this is an incredibly easy site to browse. If you’re interested in sparrows, search for the word sparrow and you’ll get a list of 33 species through which you can easily browse, comparing pictures and songs. Most other bird sites I’ve used would require a lot of page reloads to go through a list of birds like this. Very nice.
Registration is not required, but if you DO register you’ll have the ability to contribute pictures and songs of your own, as well as take quizzes based on the birds you’re looking at, or create customized lists.
If you need a lot of scientific and habitat data about a particular bird, this site is not for you. But if you want to quickly get a bird song or photograph, or easily browse through lists of birds looking for whatever’s been ransacking your apple tree, this site is terrific! Recommended.
CBC News has noted a new site from Hot Docs, which it describes as “the largest documentary festival in North America.” The new Hot Docs site has well over 150 documentaries from Canadian filmmakers (along with some other content) and it’s all available online for free. The site is available at http://hotdocslibrary.ca/en/ (that’s the English, non-Flash version.)
The front page has several sets of films you can go through — films by young filmmakers, films for educators, the most popular films — but I went straight to the browse tab and started poking around. The browse page is at http://hotdocslibrary.ca/en/browse.cfm. The documentaries are listed by title though they’re also sortable by year and by director. (The oldest dated documentary in the database was from 1951.)
The first doc in alphabetical order is $4 Haircut, a 6-minute short (with a groovy oompa tuba soundtrack) about a guy who, well, gets $4 haircuts. It shows his methodology and experience and while you might not expect a short featuring mostly a guy sitting around waiting to get a haircut to be interesting, it was. The documentary is embedded in the page with the usual volume control, pop-out to full screen, etc. The page also contains a summary of information about the documentary (director, producer, editor, etc.) In this case, the documentary also had extras, specifically transcripts in English and French.
I browsed through the shorts and found a number of topics — one film was about ginsing. Another featured Geddy Lee. A third was about Thomas Edison and sound reproduction in technology. They ranged from under ten minutes to around fifteen to 32 minutes in the case of the Edison documentary.
The videos loaded really quickly, there was a wide range of content, and it was all free. If you’re at all interested in documentaries check out this site.
The University of Alberta Libraries now has a collection of postcards available from the Peel’s Prairie Provinces web site (the site focuses on the history of western Canada and the Canadian prairies.) The postcards launched the week of December 14 and are available at http://peel.library.ualberta.ca/browse/postcards/.
The over 15,000 postcards here are divided into a dozen categories, including People, Events, Business, Organizations, and Vehicles. Click on a category and you’ll get a pop-up window that allows you to go even further, browsing sub- and sub-sub-categories. (I clicked on Objects and ended up browsing Fire Hydrants.)
Because you can browse so specifically you might not see many postcards on the page you get. My Fire Hydrants result gave me one result, a 1910 postcard of a train station (the hydrant is in the foreground.) Click on the thumbnail of the postcard in the results page and you’ll get a larger image as well as expected details about the card (physical description, notes about the subject of the card) and unexpected (address on the card! Message on the card! This information wasn’t always available but what a surprise when it was!)
Results are presented 48 to a page with thumbnails and brief descriptions, with thumbs leading to a detail page. Images could be a bit bigger but they’re good enough; the scans are high-res and you can download them if you want to enlarge them and look at them more closely.
As long as you’re here, jump up a level and visit Peel’s Prairie Provinces, which contains digitized newspapers (French and English) and business/residence directories, among other offerings. The newspaper holdings in particular are very extensive.
The city of Edmonton, capital of the Canadian province of Alberta, now has more than 25,000 historic photos available on its city Web site. The direct URL is https://archivesphotos.edmonton.ca/Presto/Default.aspx.
To get a sense of what’s here you can check out the top 200 most requested photos. There are some weird ones in this collection, including “Woman Demonstrating Oven Capacity” (um, what?) and “Sad Santa”. Pictures have slightly larger versions and a few details like year taken, but not a lot.
If you don’t like the top 200 photos you can also search by keyword. You can browse too if you like, but since all the images are in the “uncategorized” collection, browsing won’t do you much good. A search for “train” found me over 170 images, including some really nice shots of locomotives from the early 20th century. Be sure to keep your searches general; “train” found me that many images but “locomotive” found me only two, and I know there were more.
I like how eclectic and wide-ranging this collection is. If you like any of the prints here you can order them for $20 each except for the panoramas. They have a different price structure.
The Revelstoke Railway Museum, in British Columbia, Canada, had a digital archive of images that got wiped out by a computer virus last year, but it’s recently gotten a new grant and is starting all over again! The Revelstoke Railway Museum Photo Archive is currently available with over 600 photos at http://www.railwaymuseum.com/cgi-bin/photo_archive/imageFolio.cgi. (The museum’s collection actually has over 6500 images and more will be added to the online archive over time.)
The archive is divided into categories including Bridges, Tunnels, Equipment, and even Train Wrecks, but the biggest part of the archive is the selection of locomotive images, with over 200 available. That category is further divided into Cabooses (caboosi?), Passenger Trains, Diesel, and Steam Locomotive (again the largest section with over 150 images available.) Images are presented in a galley format with a default of 16 to a page (you can change that to 8 or 12 if you like.) The listings show thumbnails, number of hits, size of image (in Kb, not dimensions) and the date it was added. (There’s also a spot for ratings but I didn’t see it used much.)
Click on the image and you’ll get a much larger image and a description, usually brief, sometimes not helpful (“View of unknown steam engine.”) Available sizes are somewhat limited; I was disappointed that I couldn’t zoom in more on the pictures. You can send pictures as an e-postcard, but I didn’t see any links for further manipulation.
Actually all the fun stuff for this archive seems to be at the nav at the bottom of the pages. There you can get the newest pictures (the most recent ones were added 3/17) as well as a random selection and the most-viewed and top-rated images. There’s even a ten-second slide show mode, so you can pick a category, kick back and watch the pictures go by.
It’s easy to tell that this digital archive is in its early beginnings; there’s a lot of fleshing out to do here. But the categorization breaks down well, some of the photos here are very unusual (top view of a steam engine buried by an avalanche) and there’s a lot, lot more to come. Worth a look.