British Universities Film & Video Council

moving image and sound, knowledge and access

The new BUFVC federated search environment

Project Partners and Funders
The BUFVC federated search environment – an ‘all-in-one’ search engine – is the result of a collaborative project between the British Universities Film & Video Council (BUFVC) and Royal Holloway, University of London (RHUL) who led a research project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) under the Digital Equipment and Database Enhancement for Impact programme.
federated search environment image

BUFVC hosts, curates and delivers 9 substantial online databases relating to film, television and radio content dating from 1896 onwards and containing more than 13 million records.

Now users can search all collections from a single entry point and easily view collated results through a clean design and innovative use of icons. Users from HE/FE institutions and BUFVC members only need to login once to access more online content. Advanced users still have the option to search one database at a time using detailed search features.

Finding and refining
The key to the new search interface is the results screen, where users will find a series of ‘human-friendly’ filters (facets) that allow them to refine searches by availability of items (is it online, do I have to order it from someone? etc.), media type (moving image, audio), genre or collection.

A primary goal of the project was to enable creative discovery of content. To assist in that process we have used Open Calais, a Thompson-Reuters technology that suggests related records and searches based on a semantic analysis. When looking at, for example, a record on the Tasmanian tiger, related searches including other extinct animals or the names of leading palaeontologists, biologists or archaeologists, will be suggested as related search terms.

Keeping track with ‘History’ features
Throughout the site users will find a set of tools that will make online research quicker and easier. A ‘sliding search history’ and persistent memory of previous actions will assist researchers that browse large datasets. For example, users will be able to revisit which records they viewed, their searches, refinements made and the records marked. In addition, favourite records can be marked and shared by email, through automated citation or using a set of standards (e.g. Dublin Core XML, BibTeX, etc.).

Time coverage of BUFVC collections, click to zoom

Time coverage of BUFVC collections, click to zoom

User Testing
Complementing the high specification of the project was the way in which the project drew heavily on the needs and requirements of a range of users. Group testing, feedback sessions, remote testing and specifically designed user scenarios encouraged user input into the final design and the practical uses and applications of the database. This bold approach allowed the team to gather feedback from researchers, teachers, learning and teaching support staff, database experts and academics, highlighting the great diversity of existing BUFVC users and indicating how the site needed to recognise different user requirements and expectations.

Open Source Release
The multi-purpose search engine and interface will be released under an open source licence (the exact type is still being decided) around the Summer 2011. The system was built on MySQL and PHP and also uses the open-source technologies OpenCalais and Sphynx. If you would like to be notified of this release please let us know by writing to the BUFVC’s enquiry email:

We would still appreciate feedback and a link is provided on the top right on the site.

Project team
The project team combined academic expertise with the BUFVC’s extensive curatorial experience and technical capabilities to bring together nine existing online databases hosted and curated by the Council. The Principal Investigator was Professor John Ellis of Royal Holloway, University of London.