The cultural historical search base of Northern Jutland

An ALM project (Archive – Library – Museum)
The cultural historical search base of Northern Jutland, better known as NOKS, was launched on the Internet on 25. February 2002 as the first Danish attempt at joint search in the collections of archives, libraries and museums. This event was the result of one year’s work and involved the expense of about 1.2 mil. DKK. Digital Northern Jutland, Aalborg Municipality, the Museum Council in the county of Northern Jutland, Frederikshavn Municipality and Vendsyssel Historical Museum financed the project and also provided manpower, as well as a project manager.

Participants included, Bangsbo Museum and Archive in Frederikshavn, Vendsyssel Historical Museum and Historical Archive, Vendsyssel Museum of Art in Hjørring as well as Aalborg Historical Museum, Northern Jutland Museum of Art, Aalborg City Archives and the Regional Library of Northern Jutland. The project process was deliberately based on ALM-principles in the sense that the three different types of institutions were equally represented in the steering committee and working groups.

The main intention of the project was to establish a sensible search across the collections of archives, libraries and museums, exemplified by a number of collections in Northern Jutland. Technically speaking this has been done by making data retrievals for a new NOKS database. The great challenge was to find a sensible and durable point of intersection between the three different systems/formats: the archives’ ARKIBAS, Danish Museum Index and the libraries’ danMARC2, so that a fundamental and reasonable uniformity could be maintained together with easy access to the search.

Concepts, search words and subjects are different in ALM and it is altogether difficult to move from one institution to the other, both for the experienced and the less experienced user. It is perfectly simple to do a free text search in selected fields across the structures; but the result of the subsequent searches may be open for discussion. The hardest part has been to establish a common search system which indicates the references that have in fact been provided for the individual registrations in the different institutions. We chose as our starting point about 12,000 applied search words in the three institutions. These were then reduced to about 4,500, all of which ‘cut across’ and which can be selected and used for searching.

In order to reach this point, barriers between the three different registration systems had to be broken down. A considerable spin-off has in this connection been that an obvious professional co-operation on registration and mediation has been established in continuation of NOKS.

Another important aspect has been to ensure breadth and volume of the base. The project had to be realistic in the sense that as many registrations and as many subjects as possible had to be included in the base.With this in mind, the all-important thing has been to use the existing electronic registrations from the institutions involved – removing the worst unintentional errors and notes which were not intended for the public.

Another aim was to reach a very broad target group.Most search bases are text-heavy and dull, because the focus has been on a great number of hits rather than on presentation and presupposed a certain knowledge about institutions and collections.We decided to give high priority to design and set aside resources for making electronic ‘snapshots’ on winter weather in Hjørring, tobacco industry in Aalborg, sale of Ferm washing machines in Frederikshavn and a regional train journey to tie it all together – all for the purpose of making potential new users interested in the base.

NOKS ended up being a search base with 115,000 registrations with an associated 8,000 reproductions of the registered object or the registered photo, just as also sound recordings and film cuts can be heard or seen. 70% of the records come from archives, 15% from museums and 15% from the libraries’ 12 SPLQ:2 2003 The cultural historical search base of Northern Jutland (www.noks.dk) An ALM project (Archive – Library – Museum) local collections. The 15% library records cover an almost 100% registration of literature on the county of Northern Jutland.

Over the first year more than 60,000 searches have been made in the database. The public are happy with it and usage is still increasing. There is a market for ALM bases. The interest is also very apparent in the increased number of inquiries to the institutions. Half the number of searches are done via freetext search and the other half via the search page. That is positive, however it is difficult to exploit to the full the structured keyword search, a problem which is not unique to NOKS. In a focus group interview the users have stressed the fact that a number of improvements could be made in support texts etc. Generally speaking there is great satisfaction with both concept and product.

It is a regional goal to create a situation whereby the number of participants is extended and the base can be updated at least once a year. In the long term a continuos updating is on the cards. The budget is about 150,000 – 200,000 DKK, thought to be accomplished via county, municipalities and the participating institutions – as well as companies and organisations that can buy sponsorships in the shape of various ‘hot’ stories on the front page of NOKS. Another goal is to create the possibility for other regions to gain new experiences with a NOKS template. At present work is going on to make the basis for a search base in the county of Vejle. For the users NOKS will continue to be free of charge.

In a large perspective, NOKS provides some experiences and know-how on the long path towards a necessary clarification of the national policy for the ALM-area in relation to the mediation of the cultural heritage. It is important that the ALM-aspect is maintained in the work process itself, as the real differences are so great. It is essential centrally to determine ideal principles and realisable standards.

NOKS represents some experiences at regional level. In the wider and more realistic perspective the common mediation of the cultural heritage must take into account existing and future national bases such as DANPA, the museum collections, DAISY from The Danish State Archives, ARKIBAS.dk, local-bibliographic databases via Lokallit.dk, public and research libraries via library. dk and many more.

With this in mind, NOKS is happy to contribute to the working group which was appointed in spring 2002 by The Danish State Archives, the Cultural Heritage Authority and the Danish National Library Authority, for the purpose of determining common standards.

Translated by Vibeke Cranfield Kirsten Boel, Mogens
Thøgersen and Jens Topholm

City librarian Regional Library of Northern Jutland.
Director, Vendsyssel Historical Museum.
Archivist, Aalborg City Archives.