Encoded Archival Description (EAD) has captured the interest and imagination of archivists, librarians, software designers, and information professionals worldwide. This is because it is the first data structure standard to facilitate distribution via the Internet of detailed information about archival collections and fonds via the standard archival access tool: the finding aid. Such distribution enables finding aids to be searched with an effectiveness and thoroughness that was all but unthinkable a mere five years ago. Moreover, EAD enables digitized images of archival materials to be embedded in or linked to their corresponding finding aids, enabling a user to navigate successively more detailed layers of information.
Publication of the EAD Application Guidelines represents the final piece of documentation for EAD Version 1.0, which also includes the EAD Document Type Definition (DTD) and the EAD Tag Library. Although published last, the Guidelines are the part of the documentation that administrators and archivists interested in implementing EAD should turn to first. The purpose of the Guidelines is to introduce EAD from a number of perspectives-administrative, technical, and, most importantly, archival-and to address the need for instruction and advice that has been voiced by the archival community. The many questions that have surrounded EAD over the course of its development and implementation-from questions as broad as "Will my finding aids fit into EAD?" to specific questions relating to use of EAD elements-are addressed in the Guidelines.
These Guidelines do not, however, legislate specific encoding practices, because current international descriptive practices are divergent enough to make hard-and-fast rules impractical. Rather, the Guidelines illustrate and discuss the pros and cons of various options. In addition, the Guidelines do not attempt to articulate a content standard for finding aids, although certainly the developers of EAD hope that this work will pave the way toward a future international archival content standard.
It is also important to acknowledge that the desire to publish finding aids on the Internet is not the only reason to use EAD, since its stable yet flexible hierarchical structure is equally applicable to finding aids in any format. The same data elements that constitute a "good" Internet finding aid are equally valid for a finding aid produced by a database or a word processing program, or one printed on paper. One of the tenets of the Guidelines is that we need to take a hard look at our descriptive practices to ensure that we are delivering intelligible, useful information about our collections to researchers.
Bear in mind that EAD is, and likely always will be, a "work in progress." The Internet, EAD, archival descriptive practices, and digital technology are all dynamic entities in an environment that is increasingly driven toward standardization. EAD Version 1.0 was the culmination of five years of testing and refinement that began with the Berkeley Finding Aid Project, and as we learn more about how researchers locate and use our finding aids on the Web, continued refinement will be necessary.
|Table of Contents|
|Home Page||Preface||Acknowledgments||How to Use
Aids in EAD
|SGML and XML
The Library of Congress