Well, this is exciting stuff. We’ve just added new content to ShipIndex.org, and this is big news for a variety of reasons. First, this is the first new content we’ve added in something like six years. Second, it’s interesting new content – it’s very different from what we’ve had before, but complementary to it. Third, the content contains web links, rather than book or journal references. Fourth, it was compiled for us by our friends at OCLC; they did it on their own and offered it to us, for which we are quite grateful.
Here’s a bit more about the content. As a reminder, ShipIndex.org, in its late-90s, ultra-low tech setup, had content added to it up to about 2002 or so. Then it went dormant. The content remained available, but nothing was done to enhance or improve it. With the new interface, and new plans for it, we’re actively expanding the content, at least in the background. I’ll talk more specifically about what we’re going to do with the site in a future post.
For right now, though, we’ve dramatically increased the size of our database, adding nearly 40,000 entries to the just over 100,000 that had previously existed. These entries are different from the ones that were already in the database. The content in ShipIndex.org has always been pulled from indexes to books, so if a ship is mentioned just once in a book that’s in ShipIndex.org, it’d appear in our database. The content we’re adding now consists of Authority files from OCLC’s WorldCat. Most readers will be familiar with WorldCat, but a few might not be. WorldCat is, essentially, an enormous collective of library catalogs. The content of thousands of libraries’ catalogs, from around the world, all appear in the WorldCat database.
Several weeks ago, we added “Find in a Library” links, which link to WorldCat and tell you where the nearest library is that has the book or journal you seek. This is, I think, incredibly useful. So, for instance, if you live in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and are seeking Gordon Newell’s H. W. McCurdy Marine History of the Pacific Northwest, you can click on the “Find in a Library” link, enter your ZIP Code (I used ‘87505’; it will remember the location from your last visit to the site), and find where the nearest copy is. Unfortunately, it looks like the nearest copy is in Tucson, then San Antonio. Well, there’s a reason for a road trip, I suppose.
The good folks at OCLC, specifically Lorcan Dempsey (and his blog) and Thom Hickey (and his blog), created a file of all authorities in the OCLC database that they could identify as a vessel. Thom wrote a blog post about creating the file several weeks ago.
There’s a big difference between the vessel references in WorldCat and what has been added to ShipIndex.org in the past – items from WorldCat are, basically, subject headings for books, while items already in our database are simply mentions of ships in an index. If you search for Bremen in ShipIndex.org, you’ll find it mentioned in a number of different resources, including Robert Albion’s Five Centuries of Famous Ships, which those of you in Santa Fe will find in the Los Alamos County Library System. But if you click on the “Bremen (Ship)” hyperlink, it’ll take you to a specific entry in WorldCat, which describes 19 different works about this specific vessel. You’ll find the book Shadow Voyage: The Extraordinary Wartime Escape of the Legendary SS Bremen (and at Amazon), published in 2005, for instance, which is held in many different libraries.
But that’s not all. WorldCat also contains many rare and manuscript items. One example is Lamproie. The link to WorldCat from the Lamproie entry is for a hand-written journal, held in the National Library of Australia, describing the voyages of J. Chuissagne (or J. Chuisagne) through the Pacific in the mid-1840s, aboard the Corvette La Lamproie. Obviously, getting to Canberra to take a look at this will take some doing, but knowing that such a logbook or journal exists can be incredibly useful.
For Bremen, one of the items that’s been cataloged and added to WorldCat is “Coming! 1929: Bremen and Europa, the new giant twin fliers of the North German Lloyd, Bremen.” This is an image, cataloged by the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, which, they say, “Depicts the side-by-side red-painted bows (with names visible) of the soon-to-be-completed North-German Lloyd ocean liners Bremen and Europa entering a harbor.” There’s all kinds of neat stuff like this in WorldCat.
Adding these Authorities files opens up vast new areas of research paths for those who are really looking for a lot of information about a specific vessel. Or, for those trying to identify a book on a particular vessel, this is also a good way to go.
Many thanks, again, to Lorcan and Thom at OCLC for creating this file for us to use. It’s a huge enhancement to the ShipIndex.org site.