PROVisualizer – a tool for exploring archives

Last year I got a call from my mate Asa Letourneau, who works for the Public Record Office Victoria, the state archives of the Australian state of Victoria. Asa was plotting to develop a tool for visualizing the relationships between agencies and functions, as a way to help researchers find the records they need. I agreed to get on board, as a developer, and last month I got started on coding the visualization.

The visualization is written in Javascript using the D3 (“Data-Driven Documents”) code library. The PROVisualizer source code is available on GitHub.

The visualization shows government agencies and their associated functions in the form of a network. The agencies are yellow circles and the agencies blue circles. The circles are scaled up according to the number of circles they are connected to, so an agency with a lot of functions will be larger than an agency with only one or two functions. Similarly, a function which is shared by multiple agencies, or has been passed from one agency to another over time, will also be larger than a function which has always belonged to just one agency. The circles have labels attached which are the names of the agencies and functions, and these are hyperlinked to the records in PROV’s online catalogue.

I have made a full-screen version of PROVisualizer available, but one of the features of the product is that it is designed to be embedded in other web pages. Try it out, below!


You can search for agencies and functions, or select a specific function from a list. You can also filter the search results by year. So you can see who was responsible for a particular function in 1860, and contrast it with the agencies responsible for that function today.

Note how when you search, the URI of this blog post changes to reflect the current search. So you can search for something and bookmark or share the page on social media.

If you click on the text of a label, you will be taken to the relevant page in the PROV catalogue, but if you click on one of the circles, you can drag it to position it manually (this can be helpful if the visualization is cluttered).

One thought on “PROVisualizer – a tool for exploring archives”

  1. So looking forwards to you adding the rest of the functioality Conal, and then PROV promoting this more widely. Also looking forward to the results of our early testers focus group.

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