XML and the Encoded Archival Description:
Providing Access to Collections
Oregon Library Association
April 16, 2004
Elizabeth Nielsen, Senior Staff Archivist
Oregon State University Libraries http://osulibrary.oregonstate.edu
• Background on the description of archival materials.
• The nuts and bolts of EAD including examples of elements and attributes.
• Why is EAD (in addition to MARC) important to archivists?
• Demonstrate the NWDA finding aids database.
• Inform potential users/patrons about collections -- especially important for archival collections which are not
“browsable” and with which most patrons are not familiar.
• Enhance access/use of collections by providing more detailed information.
• Improve reference assistance.
• Different materials best served by different types/levels of description.
• Item-level description only for certain materials (e.g. photographs).
• Document that describes an archives collection.
• Two parts:
– Collection-level information.
– Inventory or container list at folder- (or item-) level.
• Usually created initially as word processing files.
• Posted on the web as HTML files.
• MARC records created and posted to local OPAC (OASIS), Summit (Orbis
Cascades Alliance), and OCLC.
• HTML finding aid (OSU Archives website)
• MARC record
Limitations to HTML and MARC
• Only “full text” searching of HTML finding aids.
• MARC records have to be created “by hand” from finding aid.
• Lack of consistency in format and content.
A set of rules for designating the intellectual and physical parts of archival finding aids so that the information can be searched, retrieved, displayed and exchanged in a predictable, platform-independent manner.
• Written in the form of an SGML (or XML) Document
Type Definition (DTD).
• The DTD mandates which elements are mandatory for a “valid” EAD document; which attributes are mandatory; and the order for elements and attributes.
• DTD is NOT a content standard.
• DTDs are read by computers … humans prefer the
• Development began in early 1990s.
• Version 1 of the DTD released in 1998.
• Version 2002 released in late
Tag Library and
• Computers read DTDs …
• Humans prefer Tag Library and additional guidance.
• Standard maintained by the Library of
Congress Network Development and MARC
• Tag Library and Application Guidelines published by Society of American Archivists
Best Practice Guidelines
• Online Archive of California
• Research Libraries Group
• Northwest Digital Archives
• Ensure uniformity in structure and encoding of finding aids.
• Promote interoperability within the
NWDA database among finding aids from diverse repositories.
3 high-level elements
• <eadheader> -- provides information about the creation, revision, publication of a finding aid
• <archdesc> -- information about a body of archival materials at collection level
• <dsc> -- description of subordinate components; hierarchical
Attributes for <unitdate> type= era= calendar= normal= certainty= encodinganalog=
<unitdate type="inclusive" encodinganalog="245$f“ era="ce" calendar="gregorian" normal="1895/1962">
<c01> -- [subgroup]
<c02> -- [series]
<c03> --[item or folder]
• Look at various pieces of encoded finding aid.
• Retain hierarchy of folder- or item-level description.
Database of EAD finding aids from 13 institutions in Oregon, Washington,
Montana, and Idaho being developed with grant from National Endowment for the Humanities.
• NWDA database under development.
• Being moved to new server at this time.
• Stylesheet being enhanced and customized.
• Search engine not customized yet.
• Database only includes ~300 XML files at this time.
Browse List of OSU Finding Aids
Hits for “Oregon State University”
• Vertical Files
• Pamphlet Files
• Poster Collections
• Any integrated group of materials with common features that benefits from collection-level as well as more detailed description (especially if that is hierarchical).
Elizabeth Nielsen [email protected]