Monday 9 May 2011

The Carnamah-Winchester Database

Seven years ago we started a website and then wondered what we could put on it. Another member of the Society had begun a database of past residents and I re-formatted selected parts of this to go online. Myself and Jill added to it – new names and new details – and it grew and grew into a massive comprehensive database.

For the two of us it became the priority. We both saw the benefit that a database of past residents could achieve. We’re a local history society with a local history museum – so every bit of information and object generally relates in some way to one person or another. Not only that, but most people are interested in someone, a particular person or family.

What do a lot people do when they get a local history book? They go straight to the index at the back of the book to look up which pages the people they’re interested can be found. So our logic was to compile the history of the district by person instead of by chapter. Obviously we won’t know of every single person but we’re doing our best to discover as many people as possible – from people, postal directories, electoral rolls, rate books, newspapers and many other resources (see our sources page).

We go through a resource and add everything we find about each person under their name. Each fact is on a new line with a source reference at the end of the line. Slowly, line by line, fact by fact, the entries build up to be quite comprehensive, and all fully referenced.

Some have asked why online, it should be in a book. I say NO WAY. The beauty of online publishing is that it can be updated and changed. A book requires a completion date and is quite final. Our database evolves and is continually added to, and can be updated online just as easily. The other big plus is the audience. Almost 20,000 people a year look at our database – that’s a lot more visitors than our museum would ever receive.

This exposure has so many wonderful effects. We get feedback, corrections, further information, new names and photographs. Another equally wonderful benefit is that we create a connection and interest in Carnamah and its past with people who would never have otherwise found us. Most visitors to our website had searched a name with no knowledge of Carnamah or even where Carnamah is! This has a flow-on effect as some of these people then visit Carnamah and our museum.

UPDATE: The Carnamah-Winchester Database is now part of the Biographical Dictionary of Coorow, Carnamah and Three Springs.

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