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Preserving Old Ontario Barns in the On-Line World: Part 3 of 5, Creating a Consistent Database

by Hugh Fraser

This blog appears throughout November and December 2020 with the following topics that build upon each other. They explore some reasons why barn databases may have failed in the past, how OBP is trying to find ways to make it simpler, and to enlist a small army of people to do the work. If something in the blog sparks your good ideas, leave us a message by adding a comment below.

Part 1 of 5: Introduction

Part 2 of 5: What’s an old barn, and why are they difficult to document?

Part 3 of 5: Creating a consistent database

Part 4 of 5: Creating an informative database

Part 5 of 5: Creating a secure, centralized and sustainable database

Collecting poor information is sometimes worse than collecting no information at all when creating a useful, consistent database. Imagine if three people measured the same barn with outside dimensions 30 ft wide x 50 ft long. One might say it was 28 ft x 48 ft because she measured the inside dimensions; another might say it was 33 ft x 54 ft because he thought his pace was 3 ft long when it was actually 2.75 ft long; and the third said it was 36 ft x 60 ft because that’s what the former owner said. After spending a lifetime involved with old barns, these are actually real life examples of measuring out there. Add in guestimates on wall heights, roof pitches, beam sizes and clearly none of this is helpful in a database. If people write or type their responses to questions on paper, or on a website, this means someone has to then interpret what that person really meant when they said a ‘beam was really big’.

The key to collecting good information lies with the most important link in the chain, the data collector. If they know what to look for and where, how to measure, how to take helpful photos, and how to properly record information, a useful database is attainable.

Data collectors yearn to know the best way to obtain good information…we just need to educate them on doing it properly.

Data collectors who know how to investigate a barn properly are critical. They need to be trained like census takers or auditors, so they systematically find the information to populate a database. This doesn’t mean they have become barn experts, but if the data collectors are the barn owners themselves, they become more engaged in the nuances of their barn. The more they know their barns, the more likely they are to understand the early signs of deterioration, or better appreciate the old gems they have in their possession.

Imagine if we unleashed a small army of Ontario barn owners to collect good, consistent information about their barns by giving them the most powerful weapon known on earth….education. This would be a powerful army indeed…and this army is you, the readers.

Next time, we will explore how to create an informative database about old barns.

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