Frazer Nash Data and Digital Technology

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After some study and use of the Greenstone Digital Library software, which included producing and distributing 50+ DVDs with sample "car collection and history" data, a Frazer Nash digital library was started, using both the Greenstone software and Microsoft Access database software.


I don't have professional/consultant-level expertise in either the Greenstone or Access software.  Further, I only have a modest knowledge of the postwar Frazer Nash cars and know much less about the prewar Frazer Nash cars.  Finally, all I  know of library practices, especially about classification techniques, comes from the recently-acquired, excellent book, "How to Build a Digital Library" (2nd edition). 

Nevertheless, my objective for this project is to start a framework of a Frazer Nash digital library that others, with more experience of digital libraries, Frazer Nash history and project management can improve over time.  Both a digital library and a car history database should always be dynamic and never truly "complete", but a long journey must start with a first step - hopefully on a valid path!

Database Objective

Initially a simple Access database was created, using lists of the Frazer Nash cars from several sources and lists of former and current Frazer Nash owners from other sources.  These were first Excel files that were imported to separate "tables" in the Access program.  Other tables were made to list exhibitions, competition events and literature, all which are (or can be) linked to specific Frazer Nash cars.

The full database is built with these table. The table of Frazer Nash cars is the base and the data from the other tables is linked ("relationships") to one or more cars.

Although the list of postwar cars is well-documented as complete, the prewar cars list may not be.  There are such lists, perhaps not "perfect", in the books authored by David Thirlby (two) and Denis Jenkinson.  Although it would be preferable to obtain a "complete" list from a Club member or other source, the data from the books produced a workable and "good enough" list (table) of 426 pre- and postwar Frazer Nash cars by January 11, 2012.  Issues for discussion are:

Has anyone else made, and is willing to share, a complete digital list of all Frazer Nash cars?

Should GN cars be included?  If so, is there a good source for this data?

Digital Library

Although an Access database is well-suited to create and show relationships and to produce screen and printed reports with those relationships, it would be taxed beyond its design to encompass the holdings of the Frazer Nash Archives, the numerous printed and online articles about Frazer Nash cars, audio and video documentation concerning the cars and other digital media not yet created (or imagined).  This multimedia repository task is best suited for a digital library.  The Greenstone open-source (free) software, from Waikato University, Hamilton, New Zealand, puts this technology within the reach of an individual, club or museum/collection with a need to organize resources.  Using Greenstone, a Frazer Nash digital library can be produced to a high standard, even scholarly.

The Frazer Nash Digital Library - First Trials 2011

After working through a Greenstone tutorial and online workshop, I made a "collection" of about 100 Frazer Nash items: photos, documents, articles and website references.  However, there was some uncertainty when classifying these items.  What distinguishes a "title" from a "description" or a "subject and key words"?  What are the proper terms to use in each?  

Classification was easy to complete on a common-sense basis, but would these classifications and terms be clear and useful for any user of the collection?  What if the collection was exchanged or combined with another digital library?  Would my "subject" be the same as another collection's "description"?  When it became evident that this was an issue that librarians may have faced for hundreds (or thousands) of years, it was time to look for "standards".

The excellent book "How to Build a Digital Library", authored by Greenstone team founders (a 2011 Christmas gift), put me on the right track about basic library practices and to the resources of the Library of Congress.  Many issues that were unclear have been long settled in the print world and for traditional libraries.  

Specifically, one question: "What is the 'proper' heading to use for FN cars?" is answered by the Library of Congress Subject Authority File:

which seems to mean "Frazer Nash automobile" becomes the "subject" in the Frazer Nash digital library.  In Greenstone, this would be a Dublin-Core entry "dc.Subject and Keywords".  In the Dublin Core metadata standard, "Subject" is defined as "The topic of the resource".  It's assumed that other libraries do not deviate too far from Library of Congress (LOC) definitions.  

Because Greenstone also allows multiple, separate entries for any classifier, I was curious to see what term would be used for the "subject" of a book exclusively on the Frazer Nash cars by the British Library.  The subject classifications of "Frazer Nash automobile" and "Sports cars Great Britain History" are used by the British Library for Frazer Nash books by David Thirlby and Leslie Jennings, but not consistently. 

The Library of Congress also has a "Name Authority File" for personal names.  It includes an authorized version of the name, alternate versions and documentation for the selection of the authorized version.  Searching for "Frazer Nash" and "Frazer-Nash" only found "Frazer-Nash Consultancy Limited" as a "corporate name".  The same search in the British Library returned NO results.  What has happened to Archie Frazer Nash?  I think both of these omissions require some follow-up!

I also looked for AFN Ltd. in the LOC Name Authority and found that the recognized "Corporate name heading" is "AFN Ltd." with "Variant(s)" listed as "A.F.N. Ltd." and "AFN Limited".  See the LOC reference.

These recommended category entries are the "controlled vocabulary" for a classification system.

As background to the above discussion, the LOC established in the late '60s, the MARC (MAchine-Readable Cataloging) which is "a data format and set of related standards used by libraries to encode and share information about books and other material they collect".  Because of MARC's complexity, the "Dublin Core" was developed in the '90s as a standard for digital metadata ("data about data" or "“structured information that describes, explains, locates, or otherwise makes it easier to retrieve, use or manage an information resource, especially in a distributed network environment like for example the internet or an organization"),

I've found that the "Dublin Core" classification system used by Greenstone is simple to understand and implement.  It basically consists of these elements:

  1. Title
  2. Creator
  3. Subject
  4. Description
  5. Publisher
  6. Contributor
  7. Date
  8. Type
  9. Format
  10. Identifier
  11. Source
  12. Language
  13. Relation
  14. Coverage
  15. Rights

But its apparent simplicity invites creativity rather than adherence to "standards". This is a primary issue that should be improved or solved before there is much more work on a Frazer Nash digital library.

Each of the Dublin Core elements are separate categories for classification, to be filled with appropriate metadata.  For the car-oriented digital libraries, I've added "car manufacturer", "car make", "car model", "car year" and "car serial no", "car country", "car keyword" and "car location".  Other categories can be added if necessary.

Are the Dublin Core categories and my "car" categories sufficient?  What should be added?

Other than the British Library and the Library of Congress, has any organization (RAC?) established a "controlled vocabulary" for an auto/vehicle classification system?

Are there any Frazer Nash Car Club members or member friends with library skills or experience?

Going Forward - 2013

I continued to use "How to Build a Digital Library" to bring the sample Frazer Nash collection closer to classification "best practices" and add my remaining 1,000+ documents, photographs and references to the collection (over time!)

A trial/sample/test Excel list of the Frazer Nash cars was used for import trials into Greenstone, to form a standard for later entries into this collection.  This list of all Frazer Nash cars was greatly improved in July, 2013.

This is a video progress report on the import trials on January 9, 2012.  The import was very successful!  The video from January 9 is Part 1.  Part 2 is an 11-minute demonstration about adding records (photographs) to the Frazer Nash collection and selecting metatags for those photos.  The video also shows the Excel source for the new Frazer Nash owners collection and explains how that Excel file was imported to Greenstone.

Although many of my Frazer Nash resources are in paper format, there are no plans for much additional scanning until it's known if these documents are unique and have been otherwise already scanned.

The Frazer Nash "collection" should be good enough to evaluate the value of Frazer Nash digital library.  DVDs that demonstrate this fully-contained, self-running library were sent to two Frazer Nash Archive trustees.  

In May, 2012, the Frazer Nash archive/library/collection was put online to allow wider Club member evaluations and feedback.  User authentication and password security can be added, if requested.

In July, 2013, after much volunteer experience with a car museum selection process for a Collections Management System (CMS), a few "best practices" of museums and archives were adapted to the Frazer Nash archive on  A description of these improvements is also on this website.

When (and if) the Frazer Nash Car Club thinks the digital library (or the Access database) is useful for organizing the Frazer Nash Archive and any future contributed material, current versions of the Greenstone and Access material will be  sent to the Club.  If the Club takes a different path, I'll maintain a digital library of my personal resources, but continue to encourage other similar projects for auto history.

To repeat: I have very modest librarian and digital library development skills!  By this webpage, I am looking for suggestions, comments and help!

Email me with advice for any of my needs or your questions!  Bob Schmitt,

Prior, Other Project Pages

Digital Library Resources

July 29, 2013

Update December 10, 2015