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Last modified: January 02, 2006
Encoded Archival Context Initiative (EAC)

[August 24, 2004]   Beta Release of Encoded Archival Context (EAC) for Name Authority Control.    Members of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Encoded Archival Context (EAC) have released a Beta version of the EAC XML DTDs, Schemas, Tag Library, and other documentation, requesting feedback from projects that implement this specification on an experimental basis. The Encoded Archival Context specification provides a formal method of "encoding descriptions of persons, corporate bodies, and families responsible for the creation of records and other resources, where such descriptions provide context for understanding and interpreting the records and resources." Edited by Daniel V. Pitti (Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, University of Virginia), this proposed metadata standard complements other standard formalisms governing name authority control for personal and corporate entities. EAC data are designed for use in federated database applications and collaborative research across a broad range of domains, including prosopographical research and genealogical studies. The designers intend that intellectual content of EAC records comply with the International Standard Archival Authority Record for Corporate Bodies, Persons, and Families. EAC is also "complementary to the UNIMARC/Authorities format, combining bibliographic authority records and archival authority records, which give information both about the creator and the context of creation of archival material." The authoritative version of EAC Beta is in the form of an XML DTD. Alternatively, a W3C Schema and a Relax NG Schema are available for use. The EAC Tag Library provides a structural overview and definitions and descriptions of elements and attributes. The EAC is intended to be the second of three apparatus that "together form a complete archival description and access system. The Encoded Archival Description (EAD) Version 2002, used for encoding the description of records, is the first of these apparatus. The third apparatus, for the description of functions and activities performed by creating entities, is under discussion." The XML DTD and the Tag Library documentation "have been developed in cooperation and with support from the LEAF project.

[March 28, 2002] EAC update 2002-03 from Per-Gunnar Ottosson: "Encoded Archival Context (EAC) - Recent Developments." By Per-Gunnar Ottosson (Riksarkivet, Stockholm). In LEAF Newsletter Issue 1 (March 2002). The EAD (Encoded Archival Description) SGML/XML DTD "has elements for names of corporate bodies and persons with attributes allowing for links to authority files. There are also elements for the narrative administrative histories and biographies, as well as elements for controlled access in terms of functions and geographic names. However, EAD does not provide support for separate files of authority and context information. In response to this need, an international group of archivists and information scientists met in Toronto in March 2001 to lay down the principles for governing such an encoding standard. The group prepared for the meeting by drafting and reviewing a set of principles and criteria to direct its work, and agreed that the standard needs to address more than traditional authority control of headings and that accompanying documentation is needed for contextual information. The name of the format became the 'Encoded Archival Context', thereby stressing its wider scope: Archival context information consists of information describing the circumstances under which records (defined broadly here to include personal papers and records of organisations) have been created and used. This context includes the identification and characteristics of the persons, organisations, and families who have been the creators, users, or subjects of records, as well as the relationships amongst them. For the development of the DTD, a special working group was assigned consisting of Daniel Pitti (University of Virginia), Joanne Evens (University of Melbourne), Stephan Yearl (Yale University), and, from LEAF, Gunnar Karlsen (University of Bergen) and P-G Ottosson (National Archives of Sweden). During a meeting in Charlottesville in June, the group came up with a draft DTD, which was ready for circulation to the full group in the middle of July. The DTD has been successfully tested on LEAF data by Gunnar Karlsen. The EAC DTD is adopted to librarian standards for authority records, such as UNIMARC/Authorities. Especially when it came to the elements of the header and the entry elements it was regarded as crucial to keep a compatibility with MARC records. A special attribute (ea= encoding analog) documents the relation between an EAC element and the MARC field of the source. The Committee for Description Standards of the International Council of Archives is now reviewing the ISAAR(CPF): International Standard Archival Authority Record for Corporate Bodies, Persons and Families . Some of the members of the committee took part in the development of EAC, and it is proposed that the new version of ISAAR(CPF) shall accommodate the structure of EAC..."

[October 24, 2001] [Provisional description from the paper by Daniel Pitti.]

From "Creators of Culture: Encoded Archival Context," by Daniel Pitti:

['An international group of archivists is developing the Encoded Archival Context (EAC) as a prototype standard for representing description of people, families, and corporate bodies.'] Encoded Archival Context (EAC) is an ongoing initiative within the international archival community to design and implement a prototype standard based on Extensible Markup Language (XML) for encoding descriptions of record creators. The primary audience for this prototype standard is the international archival community. The description of the individuals, families, and organizations who create records is an essential component of long-term preservation of and access to the documentary evidence of human activity. Identifying record creating entities, recording the names or designations used by and for them, describing their essential functions, activities, and characteristics, and the dates when and places in which they were active or over which they had some responsibility is an essential component of the curating of archival records. Creator description facilitates both access to and interpretation and understanding of records. EAC is thus intended to be both a means and an end. Description of creators is also essential in the description of bibliographic, museum, and other information, and thus EAC may be of interest to these other communities as well. As the custodians of the records upon which biographies and organization histories are based, archivists are well-placed to develop a standard that will assist in the fulfillment of their professional responsibilities, and at the same time lay the foundation for building international biographical and organization history reference resources.

EAC is intended to extend and complement EAD. EAC will support the descriptive needs of the archival community, specifically in the creation, maintenance, and publication of creator description... In addition to the international archival community, the EAC effort will be useful in the broader context of libraries and museums, formal authoring and publishing of biographical and organization histories, and the amassing of large genealogical databases. While the EAC working group anticipates interrelations between EAC descriptions and genealogical information, it should also accommodate existing authority, biographical, and historical data.

The EAC initiative is just underway. In addition to the two meetings held in New Haven and Toronto, a third meeting was held at the University of Virginia this past June [2001]. Two small groups met. The first group worked on elaborating and formalizing the semantic and structural design started in Toronto, and one to write an XML Document Type Definition (DTD) based on the design; and another to develop a strategy for ongoing development. An Alpha version of the EAC DTD is currently under development. The first draft is complete and preliminary testing by the participants is underway. Several activities will follow the successful testing and revision of the DTD. An Alpha tag library will be written, the DTD will be made available for wider testing, and one or more training sessions will be organized to ensuring that those testing the DTD understand its semantics and structures. The EU funded Linking and Exploring Authority Files project will play a major role in the testing and evaluation, using data from a wide number of European repositories. The EAC listserv, hosted by Yale University, will also be made public, to facilitate wider participation and discussion. A conference will also be organized following the testing to evaluate the results of the testing and, if the evaluation is favorable, to plan the steps necessary to complete development. Given the preliminary status of EAC, it is far too early to predict its success. There are a great many intellectual, technical, and political challenges to be met. Nevertheless, all participants agree that the initial effort has been encouraging.

EAC record structure (adapted from the summary of Per-Gunnar Ottosson):

  • The header of the EAC record, containing elements for maintenance history, and declarations of languages, rules, and source.
  • The identity area, which contains elements necessary for identifying the person, corporate body or family, such as names and additions to names.
  • EAC relations: elements for linking and explaining the relations between EAC records.
  • Resources relations: links to resources, such as the archival descriptions, catalogue records, or web pages.
  • Links to controlled vocabulary and description of the functions or activities of the person or corporate body.
  • A systematic description of the entity and its environment.
  • A biography or administrative history in the form of an essay or a chronological list.
  • The rescue for all legacy data not fitting into the EAC structure: other context description.

Provisional EAC materials:

The draft EAC materials include various "Graphic Models of Representative EAC Elements," for example:


  • [December 19, 2002] Encoded Archival Context Working Drafts. Website of the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities (IATH), University of Virginia.
  • Mailing list eac-l. Discussion list for Encoded Archival Context (EAC)
  • EAC Crosswalk ISAAR(CPF)2 (draft verersion 19-22 November 2002) to EAC alpha version. See also [pending, January 2003] ICA/CDS
  • EAC Beta Relax NG Schema. 23-August-2004. [source]
  • [October 24, 2001] "Creators of Culture: Encoded Archival Context." By Daniel Pitti (Project Director, Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities (IATH), University of Virginia, USA). Presented at "Computing Arts 2001: Digital Resources for Research in the Humanities," University of Sydney 26 - 28 September 2001. 24 pages. [cache]
  • Encoded Archival Context (EAC) website at Yale
  • EAC Working Group members
  • EAC Documents and Examples
  • Final Report of the EAC Working Group Meeting. Charlottesville, Virginia, June 21-23, 2001. "EAC Working Groups Meeting in Charlottesville, Virginia, June 21-23, 2001. Two groups of EAC working group members met in Charlottesville during June 21-23. The first group, facilitated by Daniel Pitti, was focused on fleshing out the DTD in greater detail than we were able to do in the earlier meeting in Toronto (see list of participants at the end). The second group was there to review the work of the first group at occasional intervals, to form the strategic plan for going forward and to examine the issue of whether the EAC adequately addresses context issues that devolve from the description of electronic recordkeeping systems. The DTD group met for three full days and worked through all of the high level elements from the earlier meeting and came up with a much more detailed model to address the more complex areas of context description..."
  • "Report from Toronto Archival Context Meeting, March 2001. Appendix B. Statement of principles: the Toronto Tenets. Also distributed as Appendix B of the Report from Toronto Archival Context Meeting, March 2001. Note 'Technical Issues' [11]: "The model is expressed as an XML-compliant document type definition to encourage platform independence and portability of information. The model may also be implemented using other approaches.." [cache]
  • As of 2002-01-04, Yale has agreed to host documentation on the background to the Encoded Archival Context (EAC). Technical documentation will become available at the Yale EAC web site after it has passed through alpha testing of the relevant application. [Per note from Stephen Yearl (Systems Archivist, Yale University Library, Manuscripts and Archives).
  • See also: "Encoded Archival Description (EAD)."
  • See also: "Linking and Exploring Authority Files (LEAF)."
  • For names in general, see "Markup Languages for Names and Addresses."

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