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New Access to Archival Collections -- The FAST Track

To enhance national and international access to primary sources through digitized finding aids linked to their RLIN collection-level records. Finding aids -- guides that describe in detail the content of archived collections -- form a valuable bridge between current access to cataloging and future access to whole information objects.

RLG members trained in encoding their finding aids with Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML) according to the Encoded Archival Description (EAD) standard and guidelines. Links in the RLIN database leading searchers all over the world to these finding aids. Widespread adoption of the evolving EAD standard. A growing body of valuable primary sources information accessible worldwide.

Strategic Objective
Goal 2. Global Resource -- primary research information.

Related Strategic Value
Goal 1. Transformed Research -- coordinated digital collections.

Project Tasks
RLG tasks are based on the work already done by long-time members and allies: the University of California at Berkeley, which built the foundation (the Berkeley Finding Aids Project); Bentley Library Research Fellows, who advanced the standard to an alpha stage; the "EAD Early Implementers," who will help advance it to a beta state; the Library of Congress, which has agreed to be the ISO maintenance agency for this standard; and the Society of American Archivists (SAA), which has agreed to cosponsor the standard, form a working group to develop application guidelines, and help promote it.

No benefit is realized when only one institution adopts a standard; benefit is derived from many institutions adopting it. RLG's primary task is developing a series of regional training opportunities for RLG members:

FAST (Finding Aids SGML Training). These training sessions will:

and -- most importantly --

Training is open to any RLG member with archival collections; each participating institution will be expected to provide access through RLIN collection-level record links to at least two encoded finding aids as an outcome of this training. The finding aids may reside on RLG's archival server or the institution's server.

This training dovetails with the plans of RLG's Primary Sources American Literature Task Force for a finding aids project. Participants will be encouraged to begin with finding aids from collections pertaining to American Literature. RLG's members in the UK and Ireland will collaborate with access to finding aids for their collections.

Time Frame
Training is targeted to begin later in 1996. Based on supporting features being created in other projects (Web-based searching access and viewing tools for the encoded finding aids; the implementation of RLG's archival server), use of the new RLIN links and finding aids is anticipated in early 1997.

RLG is also seeking funding for the project's second year, to train more RLG members at regional sessions, develop a Web-based training module, and provide a finding aid conversion service for members.

As an access enhancement, some institutions may choose to link the finding aids to a sampling of items (or in some cases, all of the items) from the collections described, providing a three-way link: RLIN collection record to finding aid to whole information object.

Additional Information
Other projects that intersect with FAST are the Archival Server (Arches) and Web Access. You can also use the Contents or Search button to find background related to this project in other RLG Web pages.

For more information about the SGML encoding of finding aids, go to

The alpha EAD DTD and associated files are available from the Library of Congress's anonymous FTP site,

Last updated 3/96
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