Berkeley Digital Library

Finding Aids for Archival Collections

This site presents the results of research effort the goal of which is the development of an encoding standard to render the archival finding aid in a standard, platform-independent, electronic form. Finding aids are inventories, registers, indexes or guides to collections held by archives and manuscript repositories, libraries, and museums. Finding aids provide detailed descriptions of collections, their intellectual organization and, at varying levels of analysis, of individual items in the collections. Access to the finding aid is essential for understanding the true content of a collection and for determining whether it is likely to satisfy a scholar's research needs.

A selection of these finding aids can be viewed:

Finding Aids in HTML

Encoding Standard for Electronic Finding Aids

Brief History and Progress Report

The Berkeley Finding Aid Project (BFAP), 1993-1995. Beginning in the fall of 1993, researchers in the Library at Berkeley began developing a prototype standard for encoding archive and library finding aids in the form of a Standard Generalized Markup Language Document Type Definition (SGML DTD). A Department of Education Higher Education Act Title IIA Research and Development Grant funded this initial project. The objective of the project was to investigate the desirability and feasibility of such a standard. In April 1995, after development of the FindAid DTD was well underway and the researchers had built a substantial database of encoded finding aids, the Commission on Preservation and Access funded a conference that gathered leading archivists and computer specialists to evaluate whether the researchers had achieved their objectives. It was the consensus of the participants in the Berkeley Finding Aid Conference that it had, and they recommended that the research and development continue.

The Bentley Fellowship Program, July 1995. Hoping to strengthen the case for profession-wide adoption of a FindAid-like, SGML based encoding standard, Daniel Pitti sought the assistance of a team of eight experts in archival descriptive standards augmented by an expert in SGML to critique and refine the FindAid approach. The team successfully applied to the Bentley Library Research Fellowship Program for the Study of Modern Archives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where the team met in July 1995. The team successfully produced encoding standard design principles and laid the groundwork for developing a data model and new DTD. The team also renamed the developing standard Encoded Archival Description or EAD.

SAA, LC, and CLR, August 1995-December 1995. In August of 1995, based on the Bentley team work, Daniel Pitti revised the data model first developed in BFAP, and distributed it for comment. At the Society of American Archivists (SAA) [point to SAA homepage if it has one] meeting in Washington, D.C. in early September 1995, the Committee on Archival Information Exchange appointed a working group [point to list] to oversee the ongoing development of the EAD DTD, and the writing of guidelines. In October 1995, Daniel Pitti released a "straw man" EAD DTD for testing. Two weeks later, the Library of Congress National Digital Library (LC/NDL) sponsored and was host to three days of meetings to refine the data model and "straw man" DTD. Participants included most of the Bentley Team, representatives from several LC divisions, and two SGML experts. It was announced at this meeting that the Library of Congress Network Development and MARC Standards Office would be the maintenance agency for EAD once it is endorsed as a standard by the archival community through the Society of American Archivists. The Council on Library Resources funded writing guidelines for the application of EAD in libraries and archives.

Current Activities, January 1996. An alpha EAD DTD is nearing completion and the Society of American Archivists and the Library of Congress will be distribute it presently to a group of early implementors. In early January, five members of the Bentley Team met with Professor Anne Gililand-Swetland (UCLA) and Thomas LaPorte (DreamWorks SKG) to plan and launch the writing of guidelines. With the assistance of Mr. LaPorte, Professor Gililand-Swetland will write the guidelines.

A fuller history and progress report is available.

Copyright © 1996. All rights reserved.
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