600,000 digital records dating back from 1836 to the present day
The Public Record Office of Victoria (PROV) manages the physical and digital archives of the State Government in Victoria.
Dating back to 1836 and the earliest days of European settlement in Melbourne, the collection in the PROV archives includes Acts of Parliament, records of people in care, historic plans, and records about the State’s development over the past 180+ years. These are the most important records in the state and therefore require long term preservation.
PROV is an important source of information for family historians, professional researchers, academics and government agencies who require access the State Archives. The PROV website contains information about PROV and its collection, as well as the ability for the public to search, order and use records in the collection.
A Seamless Digital Experience
The Public Records Office of Victoria website is a rich confluence of digital assets, delivering valuable information and functionality to the Victorian Public. Powered by a diverse range of technologies, PROV leans on Doghouse's expertise in areas such as Drupal, enterprise search and Single Sign-On (SSO) to ensure seamless continuity of services.
Large scale Drupal CMS website
A public-facing search engine powered by Apache Solr
A distinct Apache Solr-powered search engine exclusively for authorised users
A Digital Asset Management System (Fedora Commons)
A Request and Pay service (Opencart) that facilitates users to order records and request services
Single Sign-On (SSO) functionality for granular user control
Keycloak for user access management
Challenges & Solutions
Doghouse’s first challenge was to stabilise the website, improve performance and outages while keeping it within the existing AWS service. PROV's hosting infrastructure needed to remain as it was, given its interconnection with other core web services. This was essential due to the risks posed to external services, including search, user management and digital asset management systems that were housed within the same environment.
The Doghouse DevOps team reconfigured the hosting on a modern auto-scalable technical stack underpinned by Kubernetes. This work also provided a foundation for the Drupal CMS improvements that would follow. Despite updating the hosting infrastructure, instability persisted until a technical deep dive revealed the root issue: a dual-frontend website operating on a single codebase and database.
Remediation & Prioritisation
During the onboarding phase, we devised a remediation plan, performed a risk assessment and provided PROV with a prioritised backlog of tasks. These were ranked according to severity and impact, and structured to fit within the contracted budget.
Although eager to delve into user experience, interface and features, we dedicated the first 18 months to addressing remediation issues, ensuring the website's security, performance and accessibility.
Today, the website is a streamlined application, with a single source of truth for its advanced search functionality.
25+ projects delivered
Upgraded to Drupal 9 without disrupting existing services or PROV's digital presence.
Provided ongoing support and assistance.
Implemented design updates for an enhanced user experience.
User management controls for closed records management
Optimised the search functionality in collaboration with Apache Solr.
Developed an efficient 'Order and Pay' system.
Established a 'Box and Cart' system for user convenience.
Enhanced the catalogue pages for easy navigation and improved usability.
Promoted the beta search as the primary search tool for an improved user experience.
Visual Design Strategy
More recently, the team at PROV has drawn on Doghouse’s expertise to reassess the design direction of the website. With the systemic changes to the website completed, it was time to refresh the outdated website with a modern design to bring it into line with similar organisations across Australia.
While the initial task was simply a refresh of the homepage, Doghouse recognised the opportunity to propose more substantial UX and UI changes to the website. We proposed a strategy that would provide visual consistency across the entire website and create a more cohesive user experience.
With budget constraints in mind, Doghouse proposed a first phase of design updates. By initially focusing on updating only the most frequently used components, Doghouse were able to achieve high impact changes within budget, while putting in the UX and UI framework to guide the future implementation of design updates.
The PROV partnership reflects Doghouse’s commitment to building great web solutions that continue to evolve and grow with the client.
Over the past five years, the relationship between Doghouse and PROV has evolved into a deeply collaborative one. From initially a purely support and maintenance role, Doghouse’s hard work to build a strong and stable application has opened the door to many improvements.
Today, Doghouse looks forward to an even more collaborative partnership with PROV, with an opportunity to join the PROV team and work from within the organisation to improve, build, update and implement features in the future.