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Archives, Digital Archives and Encoded Archival Description. Chris Prom Assistant University Archivist University of Illinois Mortenson Visiting Scholars Tech Training April 19, 2006. Intro. Overview of Archives, Arrangement and Description - PowerPoint PPT Presentation


  • Archives, Digital Archives and Encoded Archival DescriptionChris PromAssistant University ArchivistUniversity of IllinoisMortenson Visiting Scholars Tech TrainingApril 19, 2006

  • IntroOverview of Archives, Arrangement and DescriptionReview Standards and Tools related to Archival Description Review Standards and Tools for providing access to digital archival materialsLots of interaction

  • Archives BackgroundArchives: Organized non-current records; generated by institutionsManuscripts: non-current papers; generated by individuals or familiesPreserved because of enduring valueNot necessarily permanent valueBoth generally referred to as collections

  • The Archival MissionIdentify, preserve, make available records and papersFrom Gregory Hunter, Developing and Maintaining Practical Archives

  • Based on chart in Hunter, Developing. . . p. 7

  • Archival Appraisal 101Process of determining valueDone over aggregates not itemsPrimary: operational, legal, fiscal, administrativeSecondary: Historical or archival valueTypes of archival valueEvidential: documents organization and functioning of organizationInformational: sheds light on people, events, things aside from organizationCredit: Hunter, p. 51

  • Archival Arrangement 101ProvenanceRecords from one creator must not be intermingled with those from anotherNOT by subjectOriginal orderMaintain records in order placed by creatorFive levels of arrangementRepository Record group/subgroup (organizationally related group)Record series (set of files or documents maintained as a unit)File (folder, binder, packs for convenient use)Item (one document, letter, etc)

  • Levels of Arrangement: Examples

  • Arrangement of PapersThe mixed repository modelTerm series in papers often refers to internal divisions in a collection.Thurgood Marshall Papers:The collection is arranged in five series:United States Court of Appeals File, 1957-1965, n.d. United States Solicitor General File, 1965-1967, n.d. Supreme Court File, 1967-1991, n.d. Miscellany, 1949-1963 Oversize, 1967, 1991

  • Description of ArchivesEstablish administrative control over archival materialsLocate collectionsIdentify their source, creators (chain of custody)Outline contentsEstablish intellectual controlGeneral nature of repositoryGeneral contents of collectionDetailed information on specific collectionsSummarize information across several collectionsImportant for both authentication and accessInternal vs. Public finding aids

  • Principles of Description*Multilevel DescriptionProceed from general to specificProvide information relevent to the level of descriptionLink each level of description to next higher unit of descriptionDo not repeat information, provide it only at highest appropriate level* Summarized from ISAD(G) General International Standard Archival Description

  • Finding AidBasic Access Tool is the Finding Aid also known as inventory or register.Prefatory materialIntroductionBiographical sketch/agency historyScope and content noteSeries description (organization)Container ListingIndex (less used now with electronic finding aids)

  • Elements of Description26 in ISAD (G) ( IdentityReference code, title, dates, level of descriptionContextName of creator, biographical or admin history, source of materialsContent/StructureScope/content, appraisal information, arrangementConditions of Access/UseAllied Materials (copies, originals, related)NotesDescription Control (author of description, revisions)

  • Finding Aid ExamplesReston Papers and Third Armored Division Assn (bring along)American Crystal Sugar Co.Thurgood Marshall Papers

  • Questions?Next:Overview of standards and tools for description of paper and electronic materials, and tools for access to electronic collections.

  • Establishing a good descriptive systemTakes planning, awareness of resourcesDeciding on platform or computers should be LAST stepBetter to describe all materials at high level than put all effort into one collectionBeware tendency to do lower levels of description before higher levelsInventory MUST be the keyUse a content standard

  • Describing Archives: A Content StandardProvides rules/advice about the quality and structure of informational content8 principlesWhat to put in the 26 elements recommended by ISAD (G)Rules for describing creators and forms of namesComplement to AACR2Provides mapping to appropriate data structure standards

  • MARC21Advantages: Can use regular library software, provides integrated access with non-archival materialsDisadvantages: Can undermine provenance, relationship to other materials may be lostRecommendation: USE MARC Cataloging as first step in PUBLIC finding aids

  • Cataloging Archival Materials

  • MARC 21 Sample

  • Typical Fields for Cataloging Archival Materials

  • Word-Processed Finding AidsAdvantages: Easy to create, maintainDisadvantages: Not in standard format, cannot exchange with others, lack of coded fieldsRecommendation: Very useful for most institutions. Can be published to Internet via PDF

  • Encoded Archival Description (EAD)Data structure standards for descriptions of manuscripts or archives-->finding aidsAt any level of granularityTypically collection levelsgml and xml versions of DTD tag for linking to archival surrogates

  • EADAdvantages: Best interoperability and data exchange, easier to implement with others (consortia)Disadvantages: Tool development still weak, steep learning curve.Recommendation: If you have good technical skills, and a basic archival program is in place, and resources are available, implement it

  • EAD SamplesStatic: Conversion on server: digital library software: implementationsCheshire:

  • EAD Structure 1XML: perfect way to implement principles of multi-level descriptionmany elements optionalmost repeatable at any level, nesting can varyNormalization possible, but not common for most finding aids

  • EAD Structure 2 (information about EAD File) unique id

    (deprecated element, repeats info for display) (information about materials being described)

  • Common Top-Level Elements (descriptive id)

    Other elements include , , , , , , , , , , , , Linking elements: some based on XLink spec, suite of linking elements includes ,,

    All of above elements are repeatable for components of the collection, at any level in the (description of subordinate components)

  • Description of Subordinate Componentsnested components (i.e. [unnumbered] or , , etc. [numbered]) represent intellectual structure of materials being described elements (within each level) represent physical arrangementMaximum depth of 12 levels (not a good idea to use all of them)All elements available in archdesc top level also available in any component (typically not used)

  • A raw EAD File

  • EAD Tools: CreationCurrent optionsText editors (cheap, no built in validation, transformation or unicode support)NotetabWord ProcessorsXML editors (graphical view, built in validation, transformation, unicode support, FOP; tend to be buggy)XML SpyoXygen XMetal (not recommended)EAD Cookbook highly recommended, templates for Notetab, oXygen

  • EAD Tools: DisplayMost common to transform to HTMLStatic via xsl stylesheet on command line or in authoring software, then upload files to serverClient-side via link to css or xsl (dicey)Server side transform engine (saxon, msxml, xalan, etc) via servletsDynamic (searchable)dlxs findaid class


  • Typical XSL file

  • Collection Management ToolsAdvantages: Software tailored for Archives, easy data entryDisadvantages: Few options currently exist. May be difficult to migrate forward at a future point. Also not automatically online

  • CMT ExamplesPast Perfect Toolkit UIUC Archival Information System

  • AIS guestPassword: guest

  • Break for QuestionsNext: Digital Archives Standards and Tools

  • Digital Libraries or Archives?

  • The on a horse problemBest systems mix archival and library approachesComplete item description ANDFull context ANDLink to complete collection (including description of off line items)

  • Sample of Digital Library/Archive Projects

  • Digital Library/Archive StandardsBackground on MetadataFor images: Dublin CoreFor texts: TEIFor information exchange: METS, OAIFor Digital Preservation: OAIS Reference Model

  • Archivists and MetadataStructured data about an information resourceMetadata by itself doesnt do anything.Metadata schemas provide buckets for information about resources.Metadata needs to be interpreted by a system or user.Metadata provides context to help machines (and more importantly people) interpret contentPeople usually talk about applying metadata to digital materials, but. .


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