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Notes on CPLHG Database (Tab Screen)

The Coopers Plains Local History Group is developing a database to record information on each item in its archive electronically, including scanning archival documents.

Notes on Using the CPLHG Database


Warning: Please don’t delete any records. In the event that a record needs to be removed the database administrator is able to perform this function. However, each record has been assigned an ID number. If the record is deleted, the ID number is removed from the database. This creates a mismatch between the sequence of ID numbers and the actual number of records. Rather than deleting a record, it is better to either re-edit the record or, if you wish to get rid of the existing record, to swap it for the next new record by changing the scanned image and information in the fields. If records have been deleted, there is a way to reset the series of ID numbers, but this is a difficult & risky task, requiring the deletion of the ID field and re-creating a new one.

How to start Data Entry?

The Access Database will open with the Main Switchboard presented before you. The Navigation Panel on the left should be closed (it only needs to be open for technical work on the database; double arrows at top left of the screen). A Security Alert might appear at the top of the database. If it does, click the ‘Options’ button and choose ‘Enable this content’, and then click ‘OK’.  By clicking the name of the suburb, you bring up a fresh form to enter data. You can continue to add as many records as you like with the form presented. Remember to click ‘save’ before you close the form, otherwise entry work is lost (i.e. data is only ever retained from the point-in-time of it being saved; regularly click the ‘save’ button during your entry work).

There are two versions of the database design with the same fields. The instructions here refer to the “Tab Screen” version, where the form is designed with the fields been distributed across five tab areas. The other version is “Wide Screen” where the fields can be viewed all together on a wide-screen monitor.

How to record a data entry?

The protocol in completing a data entry is that the information in each record is governed by the scanned document. The information in the record is all about the document, and it is the document that provides the required information.  Start with the “Document” tab which defaults as the first tab area when the form is opened. Once the data is entered on the document tab, click the next tab (click on ‘folder tab’ shape at the top) to the right, and repeat the same process until all required data has been entered under the tab headings of “Time”, “Place”, “Keywords” and “Notes”.

Across four tab areas there are two types of fields, “restrictive” and “open”. Restrictive fields describe the nature of document rather than its content. These fields have specific options and must be used within those parameters. The open fields identify the document and describe its use. These fields allow you to be both creative and thoughtful in the information you type in. There is a third type of fields grouped in the “Keywords” tab area, which operate by selecting a preset term in each field as needed, and occasionally adding new keywords. The following table lists the fields according to type.




Type of Document

Document Date






Document Title

Primary Subject


Hardcopy Storage


Churches & Religion

Clubs & Sports

Community Groups or Sites

Families & Persons

Government Facilities

Halls & Theatres


Medical Facilities

Parks & Reserves

Real Estate Sites

Schools & Other Educational Centres

Shops & Other Retail Sites

Transport Companies & Sites

Waterways & Bridges


This is not as complicated as it may first appear. The instructions on each tab area will make the use of each field easy to understand, and using the forms will quickly become accurate and a mastered skill.

Document Tab

Scanned Image: Ideally the record should be completed after or while a document has been scanned. A record can be filled out for the data with the intention for the scanned document to be attached to the record at a later time. If this case, care must be taken in linking up the record with the correct scanned image. Likewise, care must be taken if the image of the scanned document is placed in the record with the intention of other details being completed on the record at a later time. Each record should be completed within a reasonable timeframe to avoid the intentional creation of uncompleted records, and therefore, inaccurate records. However, having said that, the database is flexible enough to edit any record, as required and at any time.

Usually starting with the process of attaching the scanned document, right-click in the ‘Scanned Image’ field and choose ‘Manage Attachments’. This brings up the Attachment ‘options’ box. You can add the scanned document through the ‘Add’ button, in the usual way you would attach documents in other applications using this common ‘options box’ selecting method. As you would see looking at the box, other options include removing a file (document), opening a file, and saving it with a different name.  You can add more than one file, such as in the case where you wish to have the image of the front cover of a publication appear in the record, but would also include the PDF file that contains all the pages of the publication. In this case, you need to have the image file highlighted, and not the PDF file, when you come to close the Attachment ‘options’ box. The PDF file won’t give you a front cover image, but just the generic image of the PDF icon. When you close the Attachment ‘options’ box only click ‘OK’. If you double-click the highlighted file name or click ‘Open’, you will open the document. You will probably want to do this at some stage to access a document, but in order for the document to display in the record, it is only necessary to have the file name highlighted, click ‘OK’ and in some cases, to also click the ‘Save’ button at the top of the screen. You may swap attached document or removed them altogether, and in these cases, it is generally necessary to click the ‘Save’ button at the top of the screen before the old image is swapped with new image in the ‘Scanned Image’ field.

Document Title: The ‘Document Title’ should be used according to the title already given or what could be sensibly provided as a document title. At the end of the titled phase, it would be good to indicate a date or general historical period by adding a ‘circa’ at the end, e.g. “Henry & Doug Buch on Chev at 68 Orange Grove Road, Coopers Plain c. 1930s”

Type of Document: The document will always be of one distinctive type; as offered in the preset terms.

Time Tab

Document Date: The date is formatted as ‘long’ and will convert most other suggested forms into the correct format automatically, e.g. ‘1 Jan 1901’ into ‘Tuesday, 1 January 1901’. You have the option of selecting the date from the calendar button. It will go back to provide many historical dates, but it may be quicker to type in a date in some form and let the database automatically find the calendar day.

Many times an exact date for a document is not known and an approximate period of time can be provided. In those cases use the next three fields.

Month: If a month is known, use drop-down menu or just start typing in the name of the month. If the full document date has been provided in the above field, please still place the name of the month here.

Year: If a year is known, type in the year. If the full document date has been provided in the above field, please still place the year here.

 Unknown Date Description: If an exact date is unknown, place any information which can identify an approximate period of time, e.g. “after February 1891 and before March 1892”, or “1890s”, or “late nineteenth century”, etc. Use all information on and about the document to narrow down the period.

Place Tab

Suburb:  The name of the suburb is already defaulted according to the form used. In the case of a document that refers more broadly; that is, to the whole region centring around Coopers Plains, use the ‘Coopers Plains’ Form and add the word ‘Area’, to create the phrase, “Coopers Plains Area”, in the field.  In the rare case that a document needs to be assigned to more than one suburb (and also doesn’t just refer broadly to the area), duplicate the scanned document with different records for each suburb. As a general rule and as far as possible, though, assign each scanned document to one appropriate suburb.

Streets: All the streets for a suburb are listed in the drop-down menu. Start typing the name and it will appear to be click on (it will then appear in the box). Each ‘suburb’ form has its own particular list of streets for that particular suburb.

Location: Several keyword fields will provide information about a location described by the document, and they need to be used. This field provided the capacity to accurately title a name of a location or locations referred to by the document.


Keywords Tab

Primary Subject: A document will nearly always have a number of subjects to consider. Choose what is the primary issue or theme expressed in the document. Other subject headings can be picked by using the keyword (third) set of fields, and where necessary, in comments made in the ‘Notes’ field. The ‘Document Title’ will also reflect the subject nature of the document, and the ‘Primary Subject’ helps to expand subject information which may be too lengthy as a title. The field also provides qualifying information to the selection of keywords.

The other fields in this keywords tab area have specific options but the fields will allow you to add new keywords (labels) that are not in the drop-down menus.  What we are looking for in keywords, are references in the document of the particularly named entity. If an entity is identified in the document, it should have the same keyword in the record.

This keywords set will be both easy and challenging. The idea of drop-down menus is to make entry quicker and smoother. You can begin to type in the blank space and an option may appear for you to select it without completing the typed word. Pre-determined labels in the drop-down menus also keep keywords consistent in the database which make searching more effective. New labels (keywords) need to be noted, as they may be required to be added to the drop-down pre-determined list.

Note, you don’t have use a keyword field; in fact, you should leave the field blank if there is no relevance for this field with what is presented in the document. Select only relevant fields to enter a keyword (or more accurately, a key phrase).

The main difficulty some will have is that the choice is limited to one keyword (phrase) per field. This is not a design flaw but a deliberate limitation to get exact keywords and at the same time provide a smooth and easy method of data entry. It is for this reason that the alternative approach of list boxes was not chosen in the design. In the case of more than one keyword for a field being advantageous, there are two strategies that can be considered. One strategy is identifying multiple keywords for the same field within the same record. There are generic-type labels in all of the keyword fields, such as ‘Several religious places in the area’ that can be used. The ‘Notes’ field can also be used to add the names of other entities.

Secondly, there is no reason why a scanned document cannot be attached to more than one record; if it is judged necessary to do so. In other words, usually you expect one scanned document per record, but two or three records with duplicated scanned document, with different keywords in the same field(s), is not a problem.

After working with the previous tab areas, follow on with:

Churches& Religion: Any religious institution or site should be noted in this field.

Clubs & Sports: Recreational and social clubs, as well as sporting organisations, need to be noted in this field.

Community Groups or Sites: Any group or site that does not fit in other fields, such as churches per se (but include here church-sponsored community groups), clubs, sporting organisations, halls, theatres, families, individuals, government or industry entities, etc, but which still has community significance, should be noted in this field. In other words, this field acts as a catch for community groups or sites that do not confirm to the categories of the other fields. The Post Office is listed here.

Families & Persons: This field should be used for all references to human names, whether the reference is a family or individuals. If the reference is to an individual, the surname must be recorded first. That is sufficient information, but it would be useful to add the first name with a comma, e.g. “Fowler, Thomas”. Only family names need to be listed in the drop-down menu. 

Government Facilities:  Except for medical, educational, and transport facilities, any facilities run by government, local, state, or federal, should be added here.

Halls & Theatres: Any halls or theatres, including cinemas, to be places in this field.

Industry: Any commercial or industry site, except for transport and retail entries, to be added on this field.

Medical Facilities: All medical facilities including doctor surgeries and ambulance stations to be placed on this field.

Parks & Reserves: Parks or reserves as named to be entered here.

Real Estate Sites: This doesn’t include the real estate office, which should be entered under the Industry field, but is a field for real estate developments. References to individual sales of houses should use the street field, noting other information elsewhere (e.g. notes and title).

Schools & Other Educational Centres: All primary, secondary schools, as well as university and college sites, to be listed here. Do not include “schools” in a non-curricular sense, e.g. dance school, which should be assigned as a business in the industry field or a club or a community group.

Shops & Other Retail Sites: Shops and retailers of all descriptions can be entered here, but if the entity is a ‘business service outlet’, such as a real estate office, place in the Industry field. Similarly, a post office is not regarded as a retail site for this purpose.

Transport Companies & Sites: Includes railway and bus sites, as well as private transport company offices.

Waterways & Bridges: All water courses and pathways cross those courses should be referred to here.

Notes Tab

Hardcopy Storage: The field can describe the location of the hardcopy, e.g. Brown Cabinet, First Drawer, under the folder title of ‘Clubs, Coopers Plains’. The field can also describe the location of an online document, using the URL, e.g.^C254595

In many cases there is what called a ‘Permalink’. This is a permanent URL and is better to use than copying the URL at the top of the browser (which can be outdated). If no permalink is available, obviously use the best choice of URL (a document can be capture on different sites).

Permissions: The field will default as ‘Open Access’. Change to ‘Permissions Required’ when there are issues about copyright or public availability.

Notes: This is known as a ‘memo’ field that allows as a large amount of information to added if required. The memo acts like a Word application, in that it is not limited to a certain number of characters. Although it may be good to use ‘Notes’ to expand the information, remember the information must pertain to the document itself. This field is not for extensive research notes (some research comments may be appropriate). To explain: research generates over a number of documents, and a purpose-built research database or separate table is required. In the formation of a research database it is possible to link into the CPLHG Database without changing the nature of this database.

How to perform a Basic Search?

The Basic Search button brings up the whole database in a form view. You can edit data in any record from this form.  Unless you made a correction to a record or purposely edited in some other way, exit from Basic Search without saving.  The Basic Search is used by choosing one field and right-click on the mouse to choose among the filter options provided. Enter a search term in any filter option, and the number of records will change as records with results found according to the filter selected. You are then able to use the directional buttons on the bottom left of the screen to move between these particular records. When finished with the search, remember to click ‘clear filter’ from the right mouse-click options in the field that you are working on. Once ‘clear’ the procedure can be repeated with each different field and with any other filter option desired. The ‘Filter’ near the directional buttons on the bottom left of the screen doesn’t clear or choose the filter. It is a toggle to select between a filter and an unfiltered list of records only once a field has had a filter set-up.

How to perform an Advanced Search?

At this stage of the database development, the Advanced Search method operates outside the Switchboard environment. MS Access uses query tables to analyse data and there are no ‘shortcuts’ from the Switchboard. A basic query table has been set up in the database, which can be found on the Navigation Panel on the left. The Navigation Panel might need to be opened (double arrows at top left of the screen). Open the ‘Advanced Search’ query table.

There are two ways to conduct an advanced search from the “Advanced Search” query table. Each Column Heading has a filter box which appears by clicking the ‘down arrow’. By ticking or unselecting (remove the tick) any, and as many, of the different entries (the entered terms & phrases), you can filter to the information you are searching for. The process can be done across any number of column headings, as that the data can be filtered in various ways.

Criteria and sort specifications can also be set against a range of selected fields in the design view of the query table. To follow this method, right-click on the tab at the top to choose, ‘Design View’. There is no easy way to create a query, and support from database trainer will be required. However, once the techniques are mastered, it will be straight forward to establish the criterion against each field, or many criteria in each different field, and the particular display features in the table, which will produce the results you want from the database.

How to change label entries for drop-down menus?

In most cases the database administrator will adapt drop-down menus as further labels are required or existing labels need modification or removal.

To be able to retain alphabetical indexing, changes to the list in each field table, used for the drop-down menu in the forms, should first be re-constructed in the Excel Table (‘CPLHG Database Terms & Codes’), using the appropriate column. The column entries are sorted, using the column selection (from first to last entry), the generic-type label placed last in the list, and saved. Copy and paste the new Excel column (selected in the new sorted order and to the last entry; not by the arrow down a complete column) and paste over the appropriate Access field (but this time with the method of the arrow down the complete column). Save Table. Note that this changes the content of the existing ID records plus adding additional ID records over the existing number of ID records previously in the table. It means that the table is permanently re-sorted to the new alphabetical order until the next paste-over is required.