Extending the pNBR

Carl S Zimmerman csz_stl at 0iz6A1HZpwXj7F-U9JlWESLJhkKhwxqenWedXXP8ElxZCiS39mwJagMH7-jTJrm29JKGPEzgn6A.yahoo.invalid
Wed Jul 25 18:21:14 BST 2007

Under the subject "Dove and p-NBR: Brockhall (Northants) and Weeting 
(Norfolk)",  Tim Jackson wrote:  "Several people have suggested to me 
that there are only two bells hung full-circle but no one was 
confident enough for me to remove either tower from Dove."  I write 
now to argue against removing any tower from Dove for any reason 
other than emptiness.

As I understand it, the development of the pNBR (prototype National 
Bell Register) as an extension of the online Dove's Guide for Church 
Bell Ringers occurred for at least two reasons:
1)  Dove provided a comprehensive list of the location and number of 
a great number of existing bells, about which an extension would 
"merely" add further details.
2)  A great many people not only used Dove as it was but also had 
interest in, and information about, those further details.  It was 
presumed that such people would be willing to contribute that 

As John Baldwin pointed out under the subject "pNBR data", that 
hoped-for collaboration has indeed occurred.  In less than two years 
from the start, the extension of the Dove database to include 
important details of each bell has been at least partially completed 
for more than 98% of the 7083 listed towers.  (While only about 15% 
are entirely completed at this moment, that's sure to improve.)

A logical question to ask now is this:  What should/could be the next 
step(s) from the pNBR towards a full NBR?  I see at least two 

1)  As it stands, Dove records that almost a thousand towers are 
"unringable", i.e., they contain bells which were (presumably) hung 
for change ringing but which cannot now be used thus.  In a sense, 
these entries are useless to "ringers"; but they are valuable to 
those who realize that increasing the number of ringable towers is 
more easily done by restoring unringable ones than by installing new 
rings where none previously existed.  But from an "NBR viewpoint", 
unringable towers are just as important as ringable ones in terms of 
the information they carry about the work of bellfounders, 
bellhangers, etc.  Equally important from that viewpoint are bells 
never hung for ringing (e.g., clock chimes).
      So an important part of getting from pNBR to NBR might well be 
the extension of the present "ringability status" for each tower to a 
two-part "how hung and how usable" indicator for each bell. 
Initialization could be simple - each bell now recorded could be set 
to "hung for ringing", with a "usable/unusable" flag set according to 
the status of the tower.  Future additions of non-ringing bells could 
then utilize not only these values but others: "slow swinger," "clock 
chime," etc.

2)  The searchability of the database from the "pNBR" viewpoint is 
extremely limited at this point, at least for visitors from the Web. 
The only criterion presently usable is the degree of completeness of 
the bell details for each tower.  While this has been very important 
in encouraging the contribution of information _to_ the database, it 
doesn't help in analyzing the information which is now _in_ the 
database.  Although the database maintainers undoubtedly have 
off-line tools for doing such analysis, those are not yet available 
to visitors.
     So an important part of getting from pNBR to NBR would be the 
addition of tools for searching for bells (in contrast to searching 
for towers) according to various criteria.  Such tools would not only 
aid campanological research but would also facilitate comparison with 
existing print resources and private databases, encouraging further 
contribution (or correction) of bell details.

Finally, although towers with only one or two bells hung for 
full-circle ringing are of no direct interest to change ringers, 
there is no obvious reason why they could not be included now, even 
if not searchable from Dove's viewpoint.

This is only a sketch of possibilities; I hope it provokes some 
discussion, and eventually some action.



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