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About CityArk

CityArk is a tool to enable researchers to identify primary i.e. documentary or archival sources as being suitable for their historical, genealogical, educational, social, economic, journalistic or other needs.

Such researchers might be visitors to our public searchroom or to other Medway Council service points or remote users of CityArk on the Internet.

It is foreseen that CityArk will enable Medway Council's archives service to comply with Freedom of Information developments. Publication of CityArk on the Internet should especially benefit the international community especially those who share the English cultural heritage in all its forms.

CityArk as a Finding Aid

Traditionally archivists have facilitated access to their collections by means of manual finding aids comprising descriptive lists and card indexes, which normally provide personal visitors with document reference numbers and descriptions sufficient to identify and request the relevant documentary sources.

Such manual finding aids are consulted locally in the public searchroom area of an archives office after advice is sought from staff as to the applicability of particular finding aids to a searcher's subject of research.

Whether specific collection descriptive lists or card indexes, the latter offering global topical, personal names or place-names signposts to individual documents across all collections, finding aids enable items to be ordered on the requisition slips provided.

Traditional finding aids are voluminous, time-consuming, require prior knowledge about collections, enforce a step by step approach, and are available usually only in the same location as the archives office holding the collections. Above all, the researcher is dependent on the archivist.

Copies of many archives lists, and indexes to other collections by collection name, are however available in the form of the National Register of Archives, maintained by the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts.

About the database and query tool

CityArk represents an application of information technology by Medway Council to the procedures of identifying and locating archives collections and individual documents in its custody. The result is a fast, versatile and remote interrogation of an archives database by means of an advanced Java query tool, enabling researchers to independently manipulate and tailor searches according to their own criteria.

CityArk is particularly helpful in comprising a database that descends to piece or document description level.

It is hoped CityArk will create greater awareness of our collections, encourage more personal visits and broaden the socio-economic profile of our researchers, especially with regard to educational users.

Educational use of the archives service stemming from CityArk should be arranged through the Heritage Section's Education Officer who can be contacted on 01634 848717 or jeremy.clarke2@medway.gov.uk

The Query Tool

The query tool enables five types of interrogation.
  • FIRSTLY Text criteria searching applied to the database globally i.e. across all collection listings using single or multiple words with or without a date criterion to produce a results list, conforming to the specified criteria.
  • SECONDLY As above, but limited instead to an individual collection category, collection or constituent level within collection (i.e. folder, sub-folder and file level) selected from the drop-down menu.
  • THIRDLY Browsing i.e. scrolling of individual categories, collections or their constituent levels (i.e. folder, sub-folder and file level) selected from the drop-down menu, without applying specific search criteria, producing a collection report.
  • FOURTHLY as for the first and second but with the advanced facility of Boolean and exact phrase searching.
  • FIFTHLY searching by map graphics for selected place-names. NB this facility can also be complemented by text retrieval on any place-names desired, in facilities 1-4.

In response to the first and second types of interrogation, the results list, if the criteria are matched, will produce a sequence of individual document descriptions arranged in alpha-numeric order arranged by document reference number. Each result gives document reference number, document description, document date and quantity and emboldened text conforming to the search text criteria. Path-names conforming to provenance are included in the results.

The third type of interrogation will produce a sequence of document descriptions known as a collection report, conforming to the provenance, hierarchy and contents of the category, collection or level of description selected. This also comprises document reference numbers, document descriptions, document dates and quantities and path names, corresponding to browsing through manual descriptive lists inclusive of introductory sections.

An additional facility available with the query tool is the verbose mode, applying to the first and second types of interrogation and which defaults to off. If selected however, it will provide a preview to the results screen comprising document reference numbers linked to the descriptions following. This provides further user choice and is time saving.

Detailed search criteria instructions are given with the query tool.

It should be noted the process of up dating and adding to the database is continuous and improvements to the front-end and database are planned.

Historical Notes

Parish, village, town and city names supplied in the database document descriptions, if given without a county, regional or country name, denote the localities are in the ancient or Historical County of Kent, England. The modern spelling is always given and the original document spelling if significantly varying, with reference to J.K. Wallenburg's The Place-Names of Kent and Kentish Place Names.

Parish, village, town and city names in localities outside Kent are supplied with the appropriate original county, regional or country name and any modern or other lapsed name if applicable. Bartholomew's Survey Gazetteer of the British Isles is followed for most common British and Irish place-names.

Christian or forenames are spelt as supplied in the documents described except where more recent variations occur (usually before about 1900) for the same individual in the same document or collection, in which case the Oxford Dictionary of Christian Names and Dictionary of National Biography are followed.

Surnames are spelt as supplied in the documents described except where more recent variations occur (usually before about 1900) for the same individual in the same document or collection, in which case the traditional local spelling or the variants found in P. Reaney's Dictionary of British Surnames and the Dictionary of National Biography are adopted.

Title pages, explanatory introductions, contents sections, bibliographies and lists of alternative primary sources for collections are supplied with the collection listings, are subject to search text retrieval and can be called up by the query tool using the collection report interrogation as described above.

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