Geek Blog!

By Mark Freeman / Web Designer, Stories Past

The invoices and orders database, now available on the updated midden website, is based on 3,839 entries documenting a vast array of fabrics, seeds, medicines, shoes, foodstuffs, and plantation tools conveyed to Mount Vernon on 26 unique ships from 1754 to 1773.

This is the first part of the website to go live, and it will complement the 400 objects available later this year. When the objects database is ready there will be a link from the invoices and orders results allowing a search for similar objects. What survives from the documents into the archaeological record? And what are the documents not saying?

The data was compiled in a Microsoft excel spreadsheet (available as a download) and then loaded into a MySQL database, accessed through PHP scripts and presented through a combination of HTML, CSS, JavaScript and jQuery. Mostly this was a straightforward process, through adjustments had to be made for special characters such as the English pound symbol. Also the spreadsheet initially decided that notation in pounds, shillings and pence were actually dates! The tools for making a web page more like an application have come a long way. As the site progresses we’ll be adding tables with columns that can be sorted, and the ability to save a result set.

While you can do a general search, it’s also possible to limit the search to look just within item, category, year of shipping, ship, agent or vendor. From the page of returned results you can then view the entire record, presenting the on the same page and keeping the entry within the context of the query. The search tips page gives you a list of items by item, category, subcategory, ship, agent and vendor.

This dataset will likely appeal to people interested in the Washington family’s early life and the material culture of the mid eighteenth century. But for the interested visitor there are some quick links into the collection. For someone unfamiliar with the data a search box can act as an impediment to finding things. We’ve created a series of images links  – punch, bowls, tea wares and buttons – that let you easily see results.

 

 

 

Still curious? Who can resist a search for the “Charming Polly”!

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