Archival description includes information about the content, intellectual and physical attributes of the material, as well as information about the context of their creation and use. The context of the creation and use of material is complex and multi-layered and may involve individuals, families, organizations, societies, functions, activities, business processes, geographic places, events, and other entities. Primary among these entities are the agents responsible for the creation or use of material, usually organizations or persons. With information about these agents, users can understand and interpret the records more fully since they will know the context within which the agents operated and created and/or used the material. Contextual information about agents can be used either as a component within descriptive approaches that fully integrate contextual information into descriptive products, as archives have traditionally done, or as an independent system that is linked to other descriptive systems and products that focus on content.
Encoded Archival Context – Corporate bodies, Persons, and Families (EAC-CPF) primarily addresses the description of individuals, families and corporate bodies that create, preserve, use and are responsible for and/or associated with records in a variety of ways. Over time, other types of contextual entities may evolve under the larger EAC umbrella, but currently its primary purpose is to standardize the encoding of descriptions about agents to enable the sharing, discovery and display of this information in an electronic environment. It supports the linking of information about one agent to other agents to show/discover the relationships amongst record-creating entities, and the linking to descriptions of records and other contextual entities. EAC-CPF is a communication structure for archival contextual information for individuals, corporate bodies and families. It supports the exchange of ISAAR (CPF) compliant authority records.
The EAC-CPF Schema is a standard for encoding contextual information about persons, corporate bodies, and families related to archival materials using Extensible Markup Language (XML). The standard is maintained by the Society of American Archivists in partnership with the Berlin State Library.