Communes prototype

This application allows you to search the titles of archival units starting from the name of a commune.

To the app

This application is a prototype that allows you to search the titles of archival units (fonds, dossiers, etc.) starting from the name of a commune. To improve the quality of the search, the system takes account of mergers of communes as well as multilingual designations (for example, Guin and Düdingen are synonyms).

This prototype was developed to evaluate ways of analysing the SFA catalogue from a variety of angles which are normally among the descriptors missing from the data: geography, personality, event, etc. The aim was to establish if these gaps can be remedied automatically so as to identify places, people and events when compiling inventories of our units of description.

For this first prototype, we decided to restrict ourselves to places (the Swiss communes of which a historised list exists) and dossier titles.

How to use the app

  • The user starts on a page containing a list of Swiss communes in alphabetical order.
  • They can select a commune from the list, switch alphabetical directories or search for a specific commune directly in a search field.
  • When a commune has been selected, the application displays a page consisting of two main parts:
    • On the right is a list of the dossiers whose titles contain the name of the chosen commune (or one of its “aliases”, since communes may change over time due to mergers, separations, renaming, etc.)
    • On the left are the filter options (facets) that can be used to refine the search in three ways:
      • The history of the commune (name changes over time due to mergers, separations or renaming)
      • The periods covered by the dossiers found, in 10-year blocks
      • The dossiers’ classification by theme, in accordance with the thematic classification by fonds of the Federal Archives

In each of the facets, users can check or uncheck options (alias, period or theme) and the application will then display the relevant dossiers. They can also click on the number of an option to display only those precise dossiers.

Finally, they can click on one of the dossiers displayed to access it directly in our online search application.

In the “History” tab, a map will soon be available to display the selected commune and its neighbours. Users will also be able to use this map as a tool for navigating between geographically proximate communes. This functionality was available in an earlier version of the application but requires an update to re-establish the connection to the new version of the Swisstopo API.

Data source

The data used by the application are drawn from a number of sources:

  • The public catalogue of the SFA. Automatic extraction and identification of names of communes, with manual correction to remove some obvious errors. For example, “Ins” is a commune but can be interpreted as a preposition in German.
  • The historised list of communes. Automatic extraction along with manual correction.
  • The Swisstopo maps to show the geographic location of the communes. Automatic mapping along with manual correction.