From Source to Database

Sean Townsend, Cressida Chappell, and Oscar Strujvé


It hardly needs saying that the act of creating a digital historical database involves the process of converting information from one format (paper) to another (digital). This conversion process is ultimately the essence of creating the resource, and those embarking on the endeavor need to think very hard about exactly what it is they are about to do. Talking to others who have gone through similar processes in related disciplines, reading appropriate literature, and evaluating and using a range of database technologies are possible initial starting points. The much-used maxim ‘Garbage In – Garbage Out’ is, unsurprisingly, appropriate here as the decisions taken and methodology employed in this critical stage of the resource's development, define the future value and usefulness of the resource. Bad judgements and fudged decisions at the design stage are almost always amplified in the final product which, at best, can make the database extremely problematic to use and, at worst, completely worthless.

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