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A Note on the Process for
Database Designers

It took months of trial and error to arrive at this final product, and many attempts later, here we are. The challenge for the Ryerson Centre for Digital Humanities team was to create a searchable database from a bibliography generated by a reference manager (EndNote). Ultimately we found that a simple method worked best.

The foundation of this site is WordPress, with the Customify theme and Beaver Builder plugin. This combination allows quite a bit of flexibility and customization. We first transferred the data from Endnote into Zotero, which enabled us to work with a plugin called Zotpress in the first instance. ZotPress functions through shortcodes; all we had to do was specify the citation format, and which collection to draw from in the Zotero library. Rather quickly, however, the issue of search cropped up. Since data was being displayed through a shortcode, searches were returning no results. The first hurdle had appeared.

After some extensive research into other options, we were left with empty web pages, but plenty of ideas. We thought we had found a solution, using Pods, which act as “data containers” that can easily be deployed to a page, and a CSV (comma separated values) spreadsheet containing all our data. The data from the spreadsheet could easily be imported into WordPress and made into Pods with yet another plugin, WP All Import. However, we quickly realised this method didn’t quite suit our purposes, as it was generating individual entries, with no easy way of compiling them into a bibliography. The process of eliminating ideas took a few weeks, and we were back to square one, only with increased hurdles in place. The bibliographies weren’t displaying in the correct format, the search still didn’t work, and some metadata had gotten lost in the transfer.

In spring 2020, our energy renewed and focus sharpened, we tackled the project again. It dawned on us that Zotero can generate bibliographies, so why not simply… generate those and paste them into the site? We didn’t need dynamic data, all we needed was to display searchable information!

We got to work, using Zotero to edit the citation style and generate bibliographies as HTML pages, then pasting the code into Beaver Builder’s HTML editor. At long last, the pages were displaying correctly, and we had created a functioning, searchable database! To push further, we used the Relevanssi plugin to hone the search function for a smoother experience. The road was bumpy, but we arrived. We accomplished exactly what we set out to do, and hope this document helps anyone interested in creating a searchable database of their own.

Site Theme: Customify
Plugins: Beaver Builder and Relevanssi