EAD Roundtable Meeting Minutes 2000

Saturday, September 2, 2000, Denver, Colorado, 8:00-9:30


Chair Beth Bensman opened the meeting by welcoming participants to the third meeting of the EAD RoundTable (RT). A total of 70 members were in attendance. She asked how many present were currently working with EAD (the majority), how many were thinking of beginning work (the remainder), and how many undecided about EAD (none). Also a show of hands indicated that approximately a dozen people were working with XML.

EAD Help Pages Website

During the past year, the RT revised the annotated implementer’s section of the EAD HELP PAGES http://jefferson.village.virginia.edu/ead/sitesann-index.html. This section details the steps used in creating a finding aid in EAD, lists methods to accomplish those steps, and indicates which institutions are using the various methods. In addition, the HELP PAGES added the minutes of the RT meetings, a page provided by David Ruddy (Cornell University) discussing XML, and the EAD Cookbook created by Michael Fox (Minnesota Historical Society).

David Ruddy gave an overview of the XML section (http://jefferson.village.virginia.edu/ead/xml.html), which he laid out as a Frequently Asked Questions page. He considers the page in its current form to be a work in progress and asked for feedback from users. He would like to extend the section and add more to the XSL segment. He noted that XML's advantages over SGML are in display, searching, and aggregating rather than in mark-up.

Michael Fox discussed the EAD Cookbook, available at (http://jefferson.village.virginia.edu/ead/cookbookhelp.html). It is comprised of two parts:

  1. a printed suite whose heart is the encoding protocols. The document can be downloaded as either as a Word file or a PDF document. When creating the Cookbook, Michael spoke with experienced implementers and looked at their encoded instances to form a "best practice" model. He noted that one issue discussed at previous RT meetings was the difficulty of aggregating finding aids given the variety of encoding practices. A not so subtle motivation behind the Cookbook is a desire to standardize finding aids.
  2. an appendix of software tools. The Cookbook includes templates for inputting and creating EAD documents, tools for distribution, and XSL stylesheets. Michael thanked Dennis Meissner (Minnesota Historical Society) for contributing the Word templates. The stylesheets included with the Cookbook are based on, but do not copy, other institution’s style sheets. The stylesheets are not general purpose but are meant to go with the Cookbook’s tagging structure. (For example, the hypernavigation may not work for EAD instances not created using the directions in the Cookbook.) The stylesheets can be modified to meet institutional needs.

Examples of EAD documents creating using the Cookbook are also available on the EAD Help Pages website. Michael noted that although the Cookbook is "wholly owned by Michael Fox and his subsidiaries," he is making it available to the archival community without copyright. He noted that it should be considered a beta version and that he cannot certify that it is bug free. Michael requested that anyone using the Cookbook forward suggestions and report any problems encountered to him. He is happy to answer any questions pertaining to the Cookbook before contacting him, please read all the documentation first!

Thanks were extended to Michael Fox, David Ruddy, Tim Young (Yale University), and Naomi Nelson (Emory University) for all their work done over the past year on the HELP PAGES. Also a thank you to the University of Virginia for providing space on their server for the HELP PAGES and to Daniel Pitti (University of Virginia) for his work with the server and website at the University.


Kris Kiesling (University of Texas at Austin) reported on the activities of the EAD Working Group over the past year, stating that unlike previous years, it was a relatively quiet period. The Group revamped membership bringing the number to 12 and adding a member from Australia. Last fall the Delmas Foundation (http://www.delmas.org/dapplica.html) provided funds to send representatives from the Working Group to the EAD Users Group meeting in Europe. To date, 1,239 copies of the Tag Library, 711 Application Guidelines, and 345 EAD Context, Theory and Case Studies have been sold. The Tag Library is now on-line thanks to Chris Densmore. In addition, there are plans to put the Application Guidelines on-line this year. Also, thanks to funding from the Council on Library Information Resources (CLIR), the Guidelines have been translated into Spanish. In the future, they may be translated into French as well. CLIR President Deanna Marcum gathered German and U.S. groups to talk about mark-up and descriptive practices. These discussions were very productive. NHPRC has agreed to provide funding to support the activities of the Working Group during the next two years. This year the Group plans to focus on producing a scheduling mechanism for DTD updates and revisions. Forms will be available on the official EAD web site at the Library of Congress (http://lcweb.loc.gov/ead/). Kris announced that the Working Group would meet on Sunday, September 3, from 9-12 and that all were welcome. Some items under consideration by the Group include taking EAD forward as a NISO standard and the ramifications of doing so.

As program committee representative, Kris urged submission of program proposals for the 2001 meeting in Washington DC. The proposals are due October 6. The theme for the meeting is "2001: A Global Archives Odyssey."

Anne Van Camp from the Research Libraries Group (RLG, http://www.rlg.org/) provided an update on Archival Resources (http://www.rlg.org/arr/index.html). Last year, she reported that 2,500 finding aids were on-line. This year there are 15,200 full text finding aids in the service. Not all of the finding aids are marked up in SGML and XML. RLG decided to include findingaids in HTML because it will take awhile for many repositories to convert their finding aids into SGML or XML. The flexibility of EAD has made putting the service together a challenge. They have tried to put a consistent look and feel to the finding aids, but the mark up and content is not consistent. Archival Resources therefore has to do quality control before releasing the files to the public. The database is updated every month through an automated process that adds new finding aids and updates finding aids already in the service. Anne noted that she was pleased at the amount of attention funding agencies are paying to proposals from people who want to encode their finding aids. A key element in those proposals is how the institution plans to distribute the finding aids. EAD has proved to be a global phenomenon. The United Kingdom, South Africa, France, and the Netherlands have submitted finding aids to Archival Resources. RLG is always happy to receive suggestion and feedback. Over the next year, they plan to analyze the content in the service in order to help users. Archival Resources could be used as a testbed for user studies. Archival Resources will also compare their mark up guidelines to the EAD Cookbook to make them consistent.

Jeff Field, Deputy Director for the Division of Preservation and Access for the National Endowment for the Humanities (http://www.neh.gov/preservation/index.html) spoke about funding opportunities for EAD projects. He began with background on the agency’s involvement with EAD beginning with Daniel Pitti and the Berkley Finding Aids Project. While NEH guidelines do not require that EAD be used as the markup format for finding aids, it is strongly encouraged. Jeff explained the review process for proposals and that grant reviewers consisted of scholars, archivists, and librarians. He encouraged members of the RT to join the reviewers pool. Those interested should send an e-mail to preservation@neh.gov giving Jeff’s name and requesting a reviewer application. According to the feedback NEH received from scholars, most asked that more finding aids, not digitized materials, be place on-line and available for research. Jeff mentioned several projects funded by NEH including those at the American Institute of Physics (http://www.aip.org) and the University of New Mexico (http://elibrary.unm.edu/oanm/). The University of Virginia received funding to do a statewide project to encode finding aids for African-American collections and train others to do EAD markup. In addition, grants were given to the Cowboy Hall of Fame for to glass negatives and Indiana University for oral histories. He noted that NEH is just starting another grant cycle and noted that NHPRC and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (http://www.imls.gov/) are other sources within the federal government for funding.

Featured Speaker

Kevin Cawley, Curator of Manuscripts at the Archives of Notre Dame, spoke about how his institution is using EAD. He began with background on the use of computers at Notre Dame; particularly in the Archives and the evolution from a simple DOS based system to the current use of SGML and XML. Currently the Archives has 789 finding aids encoded using the EAD DTD of which 600 are open to the public. They range in size from 3 ½ Mb to 1 KB and are available in either HTML (http://classic.archives.nd.edu/findaids/ead/) or XML (http://classic.archives.nd.edu/findaids/ead/xml/). In discussing the markup of the finding aids and the formation of the database, Kevin provided a list of the tools used at Notre Dame. While they tried Author/Editor, X-Metal, and WordPerfect, they mostly rejected these packages in favor of a series of scripts written with perl, icon, Java, and JavaScript to convert the finding aid into a valid EAD instance. In addition, they use James Clark's NSGMLS and his other programs to parse EAD finding aids, also used Larry Robertson's SP Wizard as an means of invoking NSGMLS and fixing mistakes, and Eric G.V. Fookes' NoteTab for markup, invoking the parser, and fixing mistakes. (An overview of the process used at Notre Dame is available on EAD Help Pages website at http://jefferson.village.virginia.edu/ead/sitesann.html#University of Notre Dame.)

Questions posed to Kevin

Q. What has been users response to the new interface?
A. Users can still access the old HTML version and while people are using the SMGL version, he feels it needs more HELP information to make it more user friendly. Also, he did not retain redundant collection information (e.g., repeating box numbers for each folder listed) on the SMGL finding aid, and this information would be helpful to staff when answering requests with phrases cut from the finding aid and pasted into email queries.

Q. How did they decide on the mix of program languages used?
A. Basically, it was what worked for each problem, plus a "built-in" prejudice since the servers support perl. However, Kevin highly recommended the use of Icon for scholars in the humanities.

Q. Can the use of NoteTab to run automated functions be turned over to students?
A. Yes, and it is used that way at Notre Dame. Kevin mentioned that while there is a free version, NoteTab Pro has more functionality.


Beth Bensman stated that over the past two years the majority of the RT’s work centered on updating/revising the EAD HELP PAGES. Thus the RT needs a designated Webmaster – a service performed in the past primarily by Tim Young with assistance from Naomi Nelson. Tim has graciously agreed to serve as Webmaster and has been appointed to that position.

Stephen Miller, Director of the Digital Library of Georgia, was submitted as a nominee for the position of vice-chair/chair-elect of the RT. A post to the EAD Listserv did not turn up additional names and with out any further nominations from the floor, Stephen Miller was elected to the position by acclamation.

Beth Bensman then stepped down as Chair and turned the meeting over to Naomi Nelson, the new chair of the EAD RT.

New Business

Naomi asked for a volunteer to serve as a liaison between the EAD RT and the SAA Standards Committee. Lisa Robinson (Michigan State) and Genie Guerard (UCLA) agreed to serve. Naomi also urged RT members to submit program proposals for the 2001 meeting.

At this point, Naomi opened the floor for a general discussion/announcements.

Michael Fox informed the group that, in the near future, he hoped to add to the EAD HELP PAGES tools he developed including a batch file that would translate MARC to an XML instance and an XSL style sheet that used encoding protocol from the Cookbook. He is also working on a program that would translate an EAD instance to a MARC record.

Gina Minks (University of Tulsa) mentioned a grant that her institution has received to conduct a survey on implementation of EAD and hoped that members of the RT would be agreeable to sharing information about practices at their institutions.

Chris Prom (University of Illinois) is working with E-bind integration of digital images. He would be interested in talking with others using it and also asked for beta testers for a script he is developing. He can be reached at prom@uiuc.edu.

Elizabeth Dow (University of Vermont) mentioned that small repositories that are not ready to implement EAD might benefit from a presentation that she has given in the past that focuses on standardizing finding aids to prepare for future EAD mark-up. She noted that institutions have been grateful for the information/assistance and asked for feedback on whether it would be helpful to publish the information. The general consensus from the floor was positive, but the question was raised if this was moving toward setting a standard.

Mary Lacy (Library of Congress) asked the RT their opinion on using frames in the delivery of finding aids. She felt that frames provided better navigational capability but acknowledged inherent problems. Michael Fox answered that the Cookbook provided a chance to view the same finding aid with four different options for delivery including a frame and non-frame view. Kevin Cawley mentioned that having an institution’s finding aid presented in both ways might be helpful as most software for the handicapped works best without frames.

Jim Cross (Clemson University) asked whether XSL stylesheets would allow repositories to display only parts of the finding aids to users. (Suppressing, for example, donor information.) Members of the RT assured him that this can be done. He also asked if any institutions were creating their finding aids in EAD and then deriving printed versions from encoded ones. The floor confirmed that many were doing just that and Michael Fox indicated the Cookbook covered this area.

Naomi Nelson closed the meeting by thanking attendees for coming to the RT.