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City of Edmonton takes photo archives online with Presto

The City of Edmonton has taken a leap forward in the way it stores and shares its archive of historical photographs and images. It recently launched a new photo archives Web site, where you can search 25,000 images and counting. The backbone of Edmonton's Web site is Presto.

The city had previously stored these images as hard copies in its archives building. Now with its new site, people can search and access Edmonton's images from their home computer. The site features the 200 most-requested photos from the archives, including the No. 1 photo -- a train placed on the Low Level Bridge during the flood of 1915 to keep it from floating away.

Edmonton's site also lets researchers order image prints online and subscribe to RSS feeds that alert them when new content is added. That's just the beginning of the tools that Edmonton is taking advantage of in Presto. In the coming months, the city plans to post many more photos, as well as maps and other digitized records for public consumption.

Wally McKenzie and Noor Sheikh from our end have been working with the Edmonton team to create and implement the site. The city did a soft launch and public launch earlier this month, and has gotten a great deal of press coverage and feedback. Paula Aurini-Onderwater, an Edmonton archivist, shared some of this feedback with us, and we wanted to share with you on the blog so you can see first-hand how the site is being received by its users.

Below is an e-mail Paula sent us, verbatim:
Hi Bob, Wally and Noor,

Just thought you might like to see the media hype we've been receiving since our photo site went public. There have been a few pieces in the newspaper, and some local community TV stations have come in and done a few pieces.

Edmonton Journal

Edmonton Examiner

Shaw TV

Also, here are the notes I've compiled from the comments we received, from both the soft launch and the public launch.
For the soft launch, I invited just over 20 people -- colleagues, regular researchers, family, friends -- to go to the site and try it out, and give us their feedback.
Most was very positive, although some complained about speed; and one had a few good suggestions which I hope we can talk about in the future, or I can add them to the next 'wish list'.
The comments from the public have been coming into the reference desk.
But overall, the site has been very well received and has generated lots of excitement.
Cheers,
Paula
Paula also sent along the feedback she mentions above, and you can read that too below. (Also verbatim):

Feedback from soft launch:
  • Thanks for the link. I had a quick look at it and it looks good! Very pretty. I also like the searchability. One comment, because I'm impatient, I dislike the length of time it takes for a page to load.

  • Web site is very easy to navigate. No hiccups that I can see. Very seamless.

  • I did a search by photo number, photographer, and subject and it all worked very nicely. It also printed fine, but I had some trouble with the email function. It didn't seem to want to work. But otherwise great..

  • I thought it was pretty cool. I like the 200 most requested photos and it seemed easy to navigate.

  • I love it!
Feedback from public launch:
  • The 'comments' on the article in the Edmonton Journal are very positive about the images being online. 3 of the last 5 photo orders specifically mentioned ordering the image because they saw it online
Check out Edmonton's photo archives site and see what you think!

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