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Subject: Documentation systems

Documentation systems

From: Walter Henry <whenry>
Date: Wednesday, December 11, 1991
>necessary for me to obtain, I maintain in dBASE IV an address list with
>33 character, date, logical, and numeric fields and about 8000 records

But that is a perfect database application.  You have a large number of
records that are essentially the same and the variations from one to
another can be handled by relatively simple means (eg flags, simple
descriptors, and the like).  It is close in type to one of my examples,
recording and reporting production statistics, an application for which
I do suggest using a DBMS (or a simple file manager).

The problem for conservation treatment records as that they need to
produce complex reports over a range of objects.  My fear isn't really
that you will have to do too much work (though that is of course a
concern).  Rather it is that, unless you can put in a tremendous amount
of effort developing a database properly, your treatment records are
very likely to be inadequate.

>somewhere in the lastname field. I got six names in 30 seconds, among
>which was the one I wanted. Crude but effective.

Again, your application needs a database manager.  Access to
conservation treatment records is, in general, not as critical as
quality of the records and ease of preparation and reporting.  Before we
started putting together a database for treatment records, when we still
wrote reports with a word processor (which, btw we still do when the
occasion warrants), we used a simple dbms for the logging function and
that provided access to the report (eg we searched the log for the item
(by callnumber, title, whatever) and got a treatment number.  The report
was then accessed (either on paper or disk) by its treatment number.
Ungainly if you need to access reports frequently, but as in the 12
years that our department has been here not once has anyone but me asked
to see a treatment report, hardly worth a great deal of effort to
improve access.  In your case, where you need to pull out subsets of the
database for mailings, etc., trying to use in inadequate tool would be

>Aren't you be TOO knowledgeable and more than a bit too
>avuncular in steering folks clear of databases the way you just did?

Well I *am* an uncle, and a grandfather.  Seriously, you are probably
right that I overstate my case (hard to avoid when one is playing
devil's advocate (remember deep down I think *every* problem is a
database problem).  But I tend to worry rather a lot about the quality
of treatment (no less those produced with a pen).


    **** Moderator's comments:   In MUSEUM-L, there is currently a
    discussion concerning databases for museum applications

                  Conservation DistList Instance 5:33
                Distributed: Saturday, December 14, 1991
                        Message Id: cdl-5-33-004
Received on Wednesday, 11 December, 1991

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