Relational databases

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Required reading databases: Database design from scratch. Step by step guides to designing and building databases including tutorials and exercises [1].

The guidance notes on Base:

This next reference refers to 'normalisation'

Please read the first few paragraphs to understand what this is and why it is so important in relational database systems.

The language most commonly used to interrogate modern databases is SQL. Since you will need to interrogate the databases you build for this part of the course you should learn some of the basic terms, and this link is a very good introduction (and it's fun):

As a simple test, use the site to find out the country with the highest GDP per capita.


So far we have been working with a small, simple data set but useful research resources are often larger and more complex than this. See for example the Correspondence of William Henry Fox Talbot at or Exhibitions of the Royal Photographic Society Web site at Collections like these are more difficult to manage in a single table and it's much harder to sort through all the information they contain to find what you are looking for or to see connections between different bits without some additional help. In this session you will learn how to use "relational" databases to manage large/complex sets of information and you will have the opportunity to model a small relational database.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this session you will be able to:

Explain the differences betwen "flat" and "relational" databases.

Break a set of information down into distinct "entities" and justify your decisions. If you use iTunes you can look at the song information and explain how you might make a relational database from it.

Create a diagram that illustrates the relationships between the different "entities" in your data.

Use the diagram to construct a set of interlinked tables.

Populate and test the performance of these data tables.

To help you learn how to do this you have access to the databases tutorials dealing with: Database design from scratch [2].


Take a look at the Library of Congress Fenton Crimea War photographs at

How might this database be connected to your database of the letters?

Seminar preparation

Prepare a brief presentation (maximum 5 wiki pages or Powerpoint slides, not counting references) on what you have done and what you have learned from this session.

Follow this link to the Photography Resources in a Digital Age Contents page to return to the module contents.

Back to the MA: Photographic History Main Page to return to the Course contents.