History MetaFinder

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It’s not ‘feature complete’ but our new Mason Metafinder is up and running. The idea is to build small federated search engines for our various research portals. My testbed has been development of a search engine for an Early American history portal. Right now, it covers these seven sources:

  • Historical Abstracts
  • American Memory Project
  • Arts & Humanities Search
  • America History & Life
  • OAIster
  • WorldCat
  • and as of June 28th, we’ve added:

  • Early American Imprints (1801-1819)
  • Google Scholar
  • Library of Virginia
  • National Archives web site

We’ll likely add a few more sources as we go forward but for now there’s at least enough content to begin to test the system and start to understand (and appreciate) both the power and limitations of federated searching.

A couple of quick points:

  • Google is a “just in case” sort of search product. Content is collected and indexed by Google just in case you ask. By contrast, Metafinder is a “just in time” sort of thing. When you launch a search, targets are searched in real time and results flow back at an unpredictable pace. For that reason, you’ll see Metafinder pop up a “do you want to add these results to your set” message from time to time during a search session.
  • Metafinder isn’t doing an exhaustive search. Faster responders quickly reach our threshold (roughly 100 citations). Slower systems (hi there, OAIster) give us only 10 results before the clock runs out. To cope with this, Metafinder offers a “Collection Status” button on the results page. Click it and you’ll see how many matches Metafinder got from that source, and how many more the source reported it might eventually deliver. Where there’s a great discrepancy, you need to go to the native interface for that source to do a more deliberate search.

We’re working with Deep Web Technologies on this project and I’ll just note here that they’ve been very good sports as I send them notes asking for a change here and there in their already excellent search system. They’re the code behind sites like science.gov and biznar.

You can try a search in the text box below. Once you retrieve a results page, the “Home” link will take you to ‘normal’ launch page for this particular instance of Metafinder: the Colonial History research portal (also under construction).

Search Metafinder (History)