(EAD finding aids at the University of Maryland Libraries)
Introduction to ArchivesUM
ArchivesUM is the database that manages the finding aids (indexes) to manuscript and archival collections at the University of Maryland Libraries using Encoded Archival Description (EAD). It also includes abstracts to collections for which complete finding aids are not yet available in electronic format. Access to complete finding aids allows researchers to better plan their research visits or make long-distance information requests, and to gain a clearer understanding of the relationships between collections at the University of Maryland.
Included in the ArchivesUM project are finding aids from the following units within the University of Maryland Libraries:
- Historical Manuscripts
- Library of American Broadcasting
- Literary Manuscripts
- National Public Broadcasting Archives
- Special Collections in Performing Arts
- University Archives
What is Encoded Archival Description (EAD)?
Encoded Archival Description (EAD) is a standard used to mark up (encode) finding aids that reflects the hierarchical nature of archival collections and that provides a structure for describing the whole of a collection, as well as its components (Society of American Archivists Glossary). EAD is a subset of XML (eXtensible Markup Language). EAD enables archival finding aids to be navigated and searched in ways that their printed counterparts cannot.
Why use Encoded Archival Description?
The University of Maryland Libraries is committed to providing efficient and effective reference service to its users. In order to do this, the staff of the Archives and Manuscripts Department determined that Encoded Archival Description would be the most flexible and long-lasting form of electronic text encoding for their finding aids.
How do you create finding aids in Encoded Archival Description?
We use a two-step process:
- Microsoft Access database. This relational database, which was created by the staff of the Archives and Manuscripts Department, reduces workflow by also working as a collection management tool. Staff use the database for accessioning and record-keeping purposes. The finding aid is a natural end to this process. Fields in the Microsoft Access database are mapped to correspond with EAD tags.
- Conversion. Using a converter program written in Java that communicates with the Microsoft Access database using Java Database Connectivity (JDBC) staff are able to convert database records into XML files in a matter of seconds.
How do you make the finding aids available online?
Once staff convert the files to XML, they upload them to the server using an administrative interface. Via the administrative interface, the repository editor can upload, delete, and convert finding aids to HTML. This pre-processing of the XML document was built into the system so that the finding aids (some as long as 300 print pages), do not have to be converted to HTML at the time of the request. Two "views" of the finding aids are available. The first view segments the finding aid into sections that can be easily navigated on a computer. Navigation cues on both the left-hand side and the top of the finding aid screen ensure that the person viewing the finding aid will always be able to see information in context. A "full finding aid" view is also available for printing and more free-form browsing.
What are the Benefits of this System?
- Streamlined workflow. In addition to creating finding aids, the Microsoft Access database allows staff to enter accession and location information about collections, link quickly to electronic versions of preliminary inventories, and to print a number of useful reports.
- Subject Guides. The database also allows staff to assign subject categories and descriptions to a collection in order to create subject guides that tie together collections in different units. These subject guides become part of the EAD document through use of an <abstract> tag with different "type" attributes.
- Searchability. The structure of an EAD document allows for compound searches for phrases in the box inventory, collection title, author, scope, history, and subject sections of the EAD document. The EAD files reside in the University of Maryland's Fedora digital repository, allowing descriptions to be searched along with other digital collections. In addition, Internet search engines can easily find the EAD files and index them, increasing the odds that they can be found by non-traditional users.
- Flexibility. Each unit in Special Collections at the University of Maryland Libraries that contributes finding aids to ArchivesUM uses its own instance of the Microsoft Access database. While each unit may generate reports unique to its own holdings, there in only one online EAD repository, which will give users unprecedented access to search across archival units and institutions in a way not previously possible.
- Jennie A. Levine (Curator for Historical Manuscripts, University of Maryland Libraries). Project Management, Database Design, CSS/XSL Style Sheets, Software Testing
- Amit Kumar (Instructional Technology Developer, Graduate School of Library and Information Science, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign). Java Converter Programmer, Web Application Developer, CSS/XSL Style Sheets, Search Interface
- Susan Schreibman (Assistant Dean, Head of Digital Collections and Research, University of Maryland Libraries). Project Management. XSL Style Sheets
- Jennifer Evans (Archivist, National Archives and Records Administration). Project Management, Database Design
- Gary Philips (Information Technology Division, University of Maryland Libraries). System Administration
- Ben Wallberg (Developer, Information Technology Division, University of Maryland Libraries). Fedora migration. XSL Style Sheets
The following people provided input, time, and consultation on various aspects of the ArchivesUM system, and their help is greatly appreciated.
- Karen King (Assistant Curator, National Public Broadcasting Archives, University of Maryland Libraries)
- Henry Allen, Sarah Heim, Janna Robinson, Tammy Hamilton, Steven Bookman (Graduate Assistants, University of Maryland Libraries)
- Archives and Manuscripts Department staff, University of Maryland Libraries
- Janet Evander, Dave Cooper, Paul Hammer (Information Technology Division, University of Maryland Libraries)
- John Schalow (Technical Services Division, University of Maryland Libraries)