EAD is my area of particular expertise, but I’m keenly interested in how archival descriptive practices will evolve as EAC and other international standards offer new models of access. Hopefully I can briefly: Review the current standards landscape at both the Society of American Archivists and the International Council on Archives. Summarize what is new or coming soon. Offer some thoughts and raise some questions about what opportunities and pitfalls these developments may offer. So, what is the current landscape for descriptive standards?
DACS and EAD are the two descriptive standards currently maintained by SAA. Bill just gave a great summary of DACS. EAD is an XML markup schema for encoding descriptions of archival materials. Version 1.0 was released in 1998 and version 2002 was released four years later.
ISAD(G) was first released in 1994 and the 2nd edition was published in 1999. It provides general guidance for the preparation of archival descriptions. It was intended to spur the creation of national descriptive standards, of which DACS is an example. The fields in DACS and EAD are largely taken from ISAD(G). ISAAR(CPF) was first released in 1996 and was revised in 2004. It provides guidance for preparing descriptions of entities associated with the creation and maintenance of archives. It can be used to: Describe corporate bodies, persons, or families Control the creation and use of access points within an archival description And document relationships between creators and between those entities and the records created by and/or about them.
DACS is our national implementation of ISAD(G). In turn it defines our usage of the EAD markup schema. DACS acknowledges ISAAR(CPF) and archival authority records in Chapter 11, but does not fully implement the standard. What is new and/or coming soon?
EAC is a sibling to EAD. It is a markup schema for the transmission of archival authority records as defined by ISAAR(CPF). It is currently in beta, with a few implementations in the US, but more in Europe. Examples of US implementations include North Carolina Biographical and Historical Information Online and the Minnesota Historical Society’s Directory of Minnesota Photographers. SAA charged an EAC working group in 2006 with bringing the current beta version of EAC to a full 1.0 version of the standard. As I speak the EAC working group is currently en route to a meeting in Bologna, Italy, to gather and hash out much of the remaining development. The final version of EAC will be tightly bound to the ISAAR(CPF) standard.
ISDF provides guidance for preparing descriptions of functions of corporate bodies associated with the creation and maintenance of archives. Descriptions of functions can help place records more securely in the context of their creation and use. The final version was published on April 2, 2008. ISDIAH aims to make it possible to identify and contact archival repositories, generate directories of institutions, and establish links between institutions with related archival holdings. There is some feeling that ISDIAH is redundant and duplicates some of what ISAAR(CPF) covers, but I think it is useful to outline descriptive requirements specific to archival repositories. The final version of ISDIAH was approved in March, and will probably be published later this year. It’s worth mentioning now that after ISDIAH is published, the ICA Committee on Best Practices and Standards plans to undertake revisions of ISAD(G) and ISAAR(CPF).
I am confident that we can look forward to adding Encoded Archival Function and Encoded Archival Group to the family. EAF and EAG will be markup schemas equivalent to ISDF and ISDIAH. EAF is already under consideration in Europe, and there was some thought of combining that development work with the work underway on EAC. There is already a project in Spain that uses a locally-developed EAG standard, which may be updated for compliance with ISDIAH.
DACS ably adapts ISAD(G) for the United States but only acknowledges ISAAR(CPF). It predates ISDF and ISDIAH. Is there a need for U.S. standards that adapt ISAAR(CPF), ISDF, and ISDIAH? If so, is an expanded DACS the right place to meet that need? I think Bill would say no. Do we then need separate U.S. standards for archival authority records, functions, and institutions with archival holdings? Ideally there would be a U.S. standard for each of these, but since there is no US tradition of archival authority records, records describing archival functions, or formally describing archival repositories, would the ICA standards suffice?
With EAC in active development and EAF and EAG lurking in the wings, a revision to EAD will be necessary to integrate these companion schemas. There are many possibilities: streamlining and standardizing encoding practices, embedding elements from one schema in another, enabling better compatibility with database systems, etc. However, we will need improved archival access systems to stitch all of this together seamlessly. We will also need tools to enable the implementation of these new schemas. Ideally tools like the Archivists’ Toolkit and Archon would add modules for the creation and management of EAC, EAF, and EAG records. Why should we bother with implementing a whole new family of descriptive standards and markup schemas? Once all of these new descriptive standards and markup schemas are in place, we will be able to develop archival access systems that offer a web of archival description with multiple access points. Users could enter such a system and browse by collection, creator, function, or holding location. We will begin to build an archival semantic web.
EAC record linked from a description of a creator to all of the collections containing materials created by that entity.
EAF record linking from a function to the different creators that carried out that function over time.
EAG record linking out to the collections held by that repository.
Descriptive Standards - International Context
Descriptive Standards: International Context and New Directions Michael Rush Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University
SAA Maintained Standards <ul><li>Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS) </li></ul><ul><li>Encoded Archival Description (EAD) </li></ul>
ICA Maintained Standards <ul><li>General International Standard Archival Description, 2nd ed. — ISAD(G) </li></ul><ul><li>International Standard Archival Authority Record for Corporate Bodies, Persons, and Families, 2nd ed. — ISAAR(CPF) </li></ul>