Fan of Full Fathom Five? Be sure to check it out at its new home!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

ShipIndex.org

ShipIndex.org is an amazing resource. It began life as the Index to Ships in Books, which was amazing in itself, but its new incarnation is so much more.

It's a gateway to information about vessels. According to Peter McCracken, who was kind enough to write to alert me to the new ShipIndex.org, it tells you what books, journals, databases, CD-Roms, websites, and more, mention particular vessels. There are two levels of access: free to anyone, without cost or registration, are over 140,000 entries, but for under $10.00 per month, one can access the premium database which contains over 1.24 million citations.

When you search for a vessel, the free, full citations are mixed with the brief mention of citations available in the premium database. I like this a lot. I can "see" what I'm "not seeing." And the citations are nicely displayed--when searching: sea foam the citation list was organized by type of vessel and then chronologically--I could scan through the barks, brigs and schooners down to the steam schooner of interest. Links are included into resources such as Worldcat (to find information in libraries) or to ABEbooks to purchase items.

I also like the search interface. Searching sea foam retrieved exactly vessels named Sea Foam. No quotes needed, no retrieved items such as Seaborn Foam. The exactness of the results need to be kept in mind--this is not a library catalog with cross references. If you look for Balclutha, "Balclutha (Museum ship)" is the same vessel as one or more of the "Baclutha (Ship)" entries--and you haven't retrieved anything under "Pacific Queen."

Some periodicals are included--I can't wait for them to get more. And institutional subscriptions are in the works, and will be available in the future--contact Peter if you're interested. The folks behind ShipIndex.org are two of the same folks who founded Serials Solutions, so they are familiar with what libraries and museums are seeking in institutional access--so stay tuned!

I've listed ShipIndex.org in our blog roll, here--their blog is worth reading, especially if you're interested in metadata. (From the blog, you can use the search box on the left to search the database.) The index is also on Twitter and Facebook, which is mentioned on the "Contact Us" page.

I heard on the radio this morning that today was National Have Fun at Work Day, and I wasn't sure how I could make that happen--ShipIndex.org did it. This database is fun.

2 comments:

peter said...

Thanks; I'm glad you like it! I hope others will, too. I'd like to point out one minor edit - when you do a search for, say, "sea foam", we do return all the ones that are specifically "sea foam", 'cause that's what we're guessing you want. But there are others that might also be appropriate, so you'll see a link at the top of the page that says "This was the best match, but you can also look at other matches" and that links to, in this case, a page that shows "Sea Foam", "Sea Foam I", and "Sea Foam-II". The link isn't as obvious as it perhaps should be, and it disappears after you go away from, and then back to, the "sea foam" results page. So we might need to do some fiddling there. But of course we welcome comments on how to improve the site. Thanks again for the kind words.

Heather said...

Hi, Peter--
I did notice the "other matches" link, but didn't pursue it--I should have! I didn't think the "other matches" would be so relevant. I think I've been conditioned by Google--I guess I would expect something like, "Here are the best matches. Did you want Sea Foam I or Sea Foam II...?" but that might be impossible to code!
I *do* like getting back just the exact results--it lets the searcher really control the search!