Resistance Archive & Museum: New database access

The Arquivo & Museu da Resistencia (AMRT) in Dili continues to lead the way on access to digitised archives of the East Timorese struggle for independence.

In a new development, the online search facility has been re-designed to improve access to the well-established collection of digitised documents.

The centrepiece of the AMRT collection is internal resistance documents gathered from individuals throughout Timor-Leste since 2002.

Browsing document folders
Researchers now find documents by entering  simple search terms or navigating the collection’s database through browsing the underlying document folder structure. Previously, only visitors to the Archive in Dili could access the document folders on a dedicated stand-alone computer.

The predominant Timorese resistance document collections are arranged in folders by year; each year folder contains up to 10 standard sub-folders (see graphic).

The other main sections of the folder structure are Photographs and a Digital Library. The photographs folder contains a vast assemblage of images of the internal resistance and international solidarity campaigning. The digital library folder contains copies of published materials – from pamphlets to whole books. Many of these items come from the collection of Antonio Barbedo de Magalhães.

New document presentation
The onscreen presentation of documents has also changed. Instead of whole PDF documents being delivered from search results, documents are viewed page-by-page via navigation buttons. Database information about the origins and content of each document (metadata) is displayed alongside the page view. Page images can be enlarged for better readability.

Researchers’ gems
Some very useful items caught the eye of this researcher while browsing the folders. They include:
The guide to Jill Jolliffe’s well-known microfiche collection of Timor documents. (57 pages)
List of acronyms (9 pages)
List of resistance members’ names and pseudonyms (52 pages)

The latter two were probably internal AMRT documents developed during the course of building its database.

The new design of the search facility is a great improvement over the earlier version. I like browsing the folder structure and the new delivery method of search results – a summary of types of documents and their quantity – is welcome. While the facility is currently restricted to Portuguese language, this is no serious barrier to using the database.

On my wish list for a future improvements would be an advanced search screen which allowed searching for terms in a particular field of the database. At present a word is searched simultaneously across all database fields, sometimes producing too many results to easily browse. It does not seem possible, for example, to search for all items from a particular donor’s collection (Fundo).

Data accuracy & ‘crowd sourcing’
Large databases such as this inevitably contain typographical or informational errors. Having the data online provides the opportunity for end users to spot errors or offer valuable additional information to document data. Getting data help from end-users has the trendy title of ‘crowd sourcing’.

There are errors and holes in the AMRT database. Sadly, data corrections offered in the crowd-sourcing spirit by CHART in 2009 have yet to appear in the database. Perhaps when resources allow, the AMRT will consider establishing a formal method for end-users to submit data suggestions/corrections.

That said, the AMRT digitisation program, and making the material accessible online, is marvellous. AMRT is setting a fine example to all of us interested in making archival material accessible to present and future generations of Timorese and the international community.

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