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In August 1998, The Society of American Archivists published two special issue volumes dedicated to the Encoded Archival Description (EAD) in the society's journal, The American Archivist. Both issues were guest edited by Jackie M. Dooley, Head of Special Collections and University Archives, University of California, Irvine. The EAD Document Type Definition (DTD) represents the formal part of a standard for encoding archival finding aids using the Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML) and the Extensible Markup Language (XML). This standard is maintained by the Network Development and MARC Standards Office of the Library of Congress (LC) in partnership with the Society of American Archivists.
The publication of these two special issues of The American Archivist coincides with the recent release of the Version 1.0 of EAD SGML/XML DTD and with the publication the definitive documentation in the Encoded Archival Description: Tag Library Version 1.0.
What is 'The Encoded Archival Description' and how does it relate to SGML/XML? The Encoded Archival Description, to cite liberally from Jackie Dooley's introductory article in Part 1, "first sprang onto the archival scene at the 1993 SAA annual meeting in New Orleans, where Daniel Pitti presented a paper on the Berkeley Finding Aid Project, a fledgling research and development project (and precursor to EAD) which was barely under way at the time. The project gained immediate momentum the following month, when Berkeley was awarded a major grant from the U.S. Department of Education to develop both an SGML-based encoding scheme for archival finding aids and a database of finding aids encoded using the new scheme. In the ensuing five years, the momentum that began in 1993 has not abated for a moment, and it can be argued that the development of EAD has generated more interest in both the U.S. and international archival communities than any other technological development in the thirty or so years since the automation revolution began to change the way in which cultural repositories of all kinds conduct their business."
"Why has the development of EAD captured the attention and enthusiasm of so many archivists, librarians, software designers, and other information professionals throughout the world? Within the U.S. archival community, surely this can be attributed to the inherent appeal of a standard for structuring and automating finding aids. Despite a somewhat traditional penchant within the profession for the development of unique solutions to common problems (and a concomitant resistance to various types of standardization), many archivists instinctively are attracted to a technique that promises to reduce the need to reinvent the finding aid wheel in every repository, or to rekey or edit data every time a software upgrade is necessary, and which also demonstrates clear potential to radically improve access to archival materials by facilitating structured access via the Internet."
"But why the strong interest in EAD beyond the American archival community? Two reasons come immediately to mind. First, in selecting Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML) as the metalanguage environment within which the EAD data structure (or Document Type Definition - DTD, in SGML parlance) would be developed, Pitti made a deliberate decision to position his finding aid encoding scheme somewhat 'ahead of the curve' in terms of existing library and archival software applications. As a result, software to facilitate use of SGML in the World Wide Web environment is coming of age at virtually the same moment that EAD is approaching its first official version 1.0 release. Second, within the context of the revolution in access to all types of information that has been enabled by proliferation of the Web, librarians and other information professionals have sensed the potential of hierarchically structured finding aids for providing access to many such resources. Thus, they are watching EAD closely either as a tool for direct use or as a potential model for development of similar DTDs."
The first special issue of The American Archivist with the theme Encoded Archival Description: Part 1 - Context and Theory (Volume 60, Number 3, "Summer 1997") "reveals through a sequence of six papers the context within which EAD was developed, the essentials of its structured approach to encoding finding aid data, and the role that EAD is meant to play in individual repositories and for the profession as a whole."
The second special issue of The American Archivist with the theme Encoded Archival Description: Part 2 - Case Studies (Volume 60, Number 4, "Fall 1997") "uses case studies to describe the experiences of six archival repositories that have been 'early implementers' of this new descriptive standard."
These two special issues are available from the publications office of The Society of American Archivists. The two issues will also be combined and published by SAA as a monograph later this fall .
Documentation for the EAD DTD is published in the Encoded Archival Description: Tag Library Version 1.0. The Tag Library is a 'must-have' reference for cutting-edge archivists and allied professionals." It provides "essential documentation for archivists, museum curators, and librarians who are using or are thinking about using EAD. The Tag Library lists and defines all EAD Version 1.0 elements and attributes, and indicates their relationships to one another. Tagged examples illustrate the use of each element. A narrative overview explains the major components of the EAD structure. This publication was prepared by the Encoded Archival Description Working Group of Society of American Archivists and the Network Development and MARC Standards Office of the Library of Congress." The Library of Congress will make an online version of the tag library available in the near future. The EAD Tag Library was published by SAA in August, 1998. Extent: 262 pages, paperback. Price: $25 (SAA members $20).
Deanna Marcum, President, Council on Library and Information Resources, provided an endorsement of the Encoded Archival Description: Tag Library in these words: "The EAD Working Group has taken a leadership role in working with both the archival and library communities to develop standards that will be critical to the advancement of digital libraries. It is particularly gratifying to see this result from a broad-ranging community effort. Finally, we have some specific guidelines for including the special collections materials that reside in many different types of cultural repositories into the mainstream digital library."
The Society of American Archivists (SAA) 'serves the educational and informational needs of its members and provides leadership to help ensure the identification, preservation, and use of the nation's historical record.'
The SAA may be contacted at:
Part 1 - Content and Theory
The American Archivist Volume 60 / Number 3. "Summer 1997", Published August 1998.
Special Issue on Encoded Archival Description. PART 1: Encoded Archival Description - Content and Theory. Guest Editor: Jackie M. Dooley, University of California, Irvine.
As guest editor, Dooley introduces the EAD project and summarizes the publication objectives in this essay collection. The first special issue "reveals through a sequence of six papers the context within which EAD was developed, the essentials of its structured approach to encoding finding aid data, and the role that EAD is meant to play in individual repositories and for the profession as a whole. [These articles thus] provide an overview of the development of Encoded Archival Description and of its intended place in an integrated system of archival description and access."
"Abstract: Encoded Archival Description (EAD) is nearing completion and formal release as a standard. EAD attempts overcome obstacles to intellectual access for geographically distributed primary resources by providing a standard encoding structure for archival finding aids. EAD is the most recent in a line of similar efforts to address universal intellectual access to such data, and like its predecessors, EAD applies emerging technology to the problem. The technology underlying EAD is Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML) and Extensible Markup Language (XML). This article reviews the background of EAD and the contributions of archivists in both large and small repositories to its development."
Note: The University of Virginia plays a leading role in the use of SGML/XML technologies within the academic setting. See the UVA Electronic Text Center, the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, and The Instructional Technology Group of ITC (Information Technology and Communication). A number of the prominent SGML/XML projects are summarized or referenced in the database section "IATH - Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities." See also the IATH Research Reports.
Abstract: "Encoded Archival Description (EAD) is part of the mainstream of archival standards development. The work of the National Information Systems Task Force in creating the MARC AMC format and the concomitant development of Archives, Personal Papers, and Manuscripts helped define the basic framework of shared archival description. The architects of EAD have built upon this architecture and provided archivists with technology-based tools capable of producing a fully integrated descriptive apparatus in an Internet environment that are nonetheless finely rooted in archival principles and traditions.
Note: Duke University has been active in the development of SGML-based Archival Finding Aids.
Abstract: "Document representations are gradually moving from format orientation to a more structural orientation, where their internal structure is made available to the machine for more effective processing. This is very much like the move of databases toward more explicit, unambiguous, standardized forms. The data found in documents is quite different from traditional, tabular database records, however, and requires new models. SGML has been at the center of this move because of some very simple characteristics, such as allowing authors to create the particular labels needed for their specific applications. These characteristics led to its use by the Text Encoding Initiative and for Encoded Archival Description. Finding aids pose some uniquely challenging problems for encoding, now addressed by EAD in a way that should make such information far more accessible for the future."
Note: Inso Corporation, formerly Electronic Book Technologies (EBT), has made a number of software grants to universities for finding aids projects through its generous educational grant program. Steve DeRose served on an early EAD working group, with support from the Bentley Historical Library, to help develop the EAD DTD.
Abstract: "Encoded Archival Description (EAD), the SGML Document Type Definition (DTD) for archival finding aids, has been under development for more than three years. Although it has been significantly improved during that time by feedback from early implementers and by new insights from its developers, much of EAD's basic structure dates from the design team's first meeting in July 1995 at the Bentley Historical Library in Ann Arbor, Michigan. During that week-long gathering, the EAD design team articulated its observations about traditional archival finding aids, established design goals and principles, and created the framework for the current version 1.0 DTD structure. This article examines the basic steps in building an SGML DTD and provides a structural analysis of EAD's high-level elements in light of the developers' early design goals and decisions."
Note: The EAD standard is maintained by the Network Development and MARC Standards Office of the US Library of Congress (LC) in partnership with the Society of American Archivists.
Abstract: "The implementation of Encoded Archival Description involves the same programmatic and administrative concerns encountered when undertaking any new initiative. To be successful, EAD must fit within the institution's budget, priorities, and strategic vision; benefits must be carefully weighed against costs. Administrators need to understand the implications of initial and ongoing staff costs, outsourcing possibilities, the role of consortial initiatives, training requirements, workflow management, hardware and software requirements and costs, and technical support needs as they select from among several options for creating and publishing EAD-encoded finding aids."
Abstract: "Encoded Archival Description has a great deal of potential as an archival descriptive standard. Not only is it a data structure that is widely applicable to a variety of institutions and collection types on an international scale, it may also foster common practices regarding data content for finding. To become an official SAA descriptive standard, EAD must pass through a rigorous internal review process and be accepted by the archival community."
Note: The Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center maintains a sizable collection of online finding aids for materials later than 1900.
Part 2 - Case Studies
The American Archivist Volume 60 / Number 4. "Fall 1997", Published August 1998.
Special Issue on Encoded Archival Description. PART 2: Encoded Archival Description - Case Studies. Guest Editor: Jackie M. Dooley, University of California, Irvine.
As special issue editor, Dooley contextualizes and summarizes the contributions of the authors who present EAD case studies. Case studies are presented on behalf of the Minnesota Historical Society, Harvard and Radcliffe, Yale University, University of Virginia, The Library of Congress, and the University of Vermont. Excerpt: "In the present issue, case studies are used to describe the experiences of six archival repositories that have been 'early implementers' of the new EAD descriptive standard. Each of these repositories leaped into the pool while EAD was still under development, two or more years before it was a finished, stable encoding scheme ready for use by all archival repositories. Such pioneering activity is not for the fainthearted! When these archivists began applying EAD, documentation had not yet been published; software tools were not yet stable, affordable, or easy to use; and the structure of EAD itself was in a considerable state of flux. Even so, archivists at these institutions saw the potential of EAD to standardize their fmding aid practices and, in so doing, to improve the quality and functionality of their archival information access and delivery systems. [The artcles reveal who these pioneers are, and the perspectives they bring to the archival community's understanding of EAD.
Dooley reports also that "Numerous other archives in the United States and elsewhere already are implementing EAD, and one expects that our professional literature increasingly will be filled with reports of the particular challenges faced and lessons learned by each. For example, my own repository - Special Collections and University Archives at the University of California, Irvine - is a participant in the Online Archive of California (OAC), the consortial implementation of EAD by the nine-campus University of California system. Under development for less than two years, OAC already has been effective in raising the profile of archival collections university-wide by virtue of their early inclusion in UC's digital library. Three features of the UC project are of particular note. First, an explicit training component was included to ensure that EAD is successfully adopted as a standard technology in all UC repositories, both large and small. Second, participants were required to link to each EAD finding aid from a USMARC catalog record in UC's MELVYL online catalog, in the same fashion that links are made to other types of electronic resources. And third, an invitation was extended to non-UC archival repositories throughout California to contribute their finding aids to be marked up by project staff and made available via the OAC database. The UC project has faced the obstacles inherent to a geographically dispersed consortium that includes repositories of widely varying size and automation expertise. Such project management issues will be reported upon following a formal evaluation phase led by Anne Gilliland-Swetland of UCLA's Department of Library and Information Science."
Abstract: "Although it is tempting for a repository to begin its work with EAD by marking up its existing finding aids as they are, more satisfying results will ensue if the repository invests some time up front in assessing, and perhaps revising, its finding aid model. The Minnesota Historical Society recently completed such a project to evaluate the effectiveness of its finding aids and to reengineer their look, feel, and structure in order to make them more effective tools for delivering information about archival materials to distance users via the World Wide Web, as well as to in-house users. The author describes the process and the results of that intensive project."
Abstract: "The Harvard/Radcliffe Digital Finding Aids Project (DFAP) was established in 1995 to explore options for making finding aids available remotely over the Internet. This paper reports on why SGML/EAD became the delivery medium of choice; the process of selection of SGML authoring software; the ongoing development of cross-Harvard standards and guidelines for application of EAD; plans for cross-repository indexing and development of a search engine; and implementation challenges faced by the eight Harvard/Radcliffe repositories participating in the project. Also discussed are the development of an EAD template for future Houghton Library finding aids and problems with retrospective conversion of existing finding aids."
Abstract: "In 1995, the Yale University Library agreed to serve as an 'early implementer' site for the FindAid DTD, now EAD. Three Yale manuscript repositories - the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Special Collections in the Divinity School Library, and the Manuscripts and Archives Department of Sterling Memorial Library - agreed to participate in this test phase by creating an integrated database of SGML-encoded finding aids, accessible via the World Wide Web. This case study describes the basic configuration of the Yale finding aid site, reviews the project's history and accomplishments since its inception in 1995, discusses the methods employed by the participating units to mark up legacy flies and to integrate EAD into their routines for creating new finding aids, and suggests issues to be considered by others contemplating an SGMLJEAD encoding project of their own."
Abstract: "This case study chronicles the Library of Congress's participation as an early implementer of Encoded Archival Description (EAD). The activities described include testing the alpha version of the EAD DTD, tagging approaches used in two test finding aids in the Manuscript and the Prints and Photographs divisions, a pilot project in the Manuscript Division which encoded ten finding aids, exploration of how EAD accommodates finding aids in various formats, and the work of the library's EAD Task Force in resolving organizational and technical issues. The authors' conclusions are based on their two-year involvement with EAD at the Library of Congress."
Abstract: "In 1996 the National Endowment for the Humanities awarded a joint grant to the University of California at Berkeley, Duke University, Stanford University, and the University of Virginia to produce a body of Encoded Archival Description (EAD) finding aids and to test the assumption that a collection of such guides could function both as a local resource and as a multi-institutional union database. This paper concentrates on the issues of workflow and on-line delivery for the University of Virginia guides, which employ Web forms for data creation, on-line searching, and 'on the fly' conversion to HTML."
Abstract: "Impressed by the potential EAD offers for intellectual access to manuscript collections via publication of their finding aids on the World Wide Web, the University of Vermont Libraries supported Special Collections in accumulating the tools and knowledge needed to convert printed inventories to Web-publishable documents. Staffed by one faculty member and two undergraduate students, all on a part-time basis, and with support from the library's systems staff, the EAD Project published its first inventory in March 1997. The project raised many questions, such as what constitutes accurate and appropriate use of EAD markup, what are the differences between publishing on paper and publishing the same information electronically, how to handle vocabulary control, and what is the most appropriate technology for electronic access to a variety of finding aid formats."
Selected (representative but not exhaustive) references:
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