It has been a most interesting set of messages that have come across the
list today. Let me add a few footnotes.
Is the DTD lax (or just permissive)? Should we have EAD lite? Or less
flexibility in EAD itself? More prescription? The origins of the DTD rest
in a conscious effort to accommodate a fairly wide range of existing finding
aids practice at the time. It was in fact a tactical issue to some extent.
How does one promulgate a standard? How does one encourage good and
consistent practice? What do you think the market penetration of EAD now
would be today if a group had determined in 1995 what finding aids ought to
have looked like (either as to content or presentation) and created a DTD
that supported only that view? One could argue that we should have started
out with first principles and spend ten years of committee work to lay the
firm principles by which we might proceed. I'm not sure that such an
approach would have succeeded, particularly if it were to have an
international component. In any event, it did not happen.
The issue is what do we do now. Perhaps we are now a time when the pendulum
can swing the other way. Everybody agrees that we need an agreement on
structure- what informational pieces should be included in descriptive
products. ISAD(G) and ISAAR(CPF) are a start but they are really only broad
outlines, the basic core. If we were to live in a logical world, we would
define these elements and then move on to a content standard that described
how these data elements would be constructed- a content standard, a data
dictionary, business rules- depending on the vocabulary of the discipline
from which you come. While I never like to disagree with my colleague Hugo
Stibbe, I would argue that ISAD(G) is not a content standard or if it is, is
one with very weak semantics. RAD, now that's a content standard. APPM
too. You could actually describe something using their rules. Not really
so with ISAD(G). In North America, the CUSTARD project is attempting to
blend the best of RAD and APPM to create a content standard that is
independent of output. But what about in the UK and Sweden and France? We
have to remember that EAD has an international face and must accommodate
various national descriptive traditions just as MARC can accommodate data
created according to APPM, or the Oral History Cataloging Manual, or other
content standards, as well as AACR2.
With the EAD Cookbook, so much of the conversation, including that which
started this list thread, has been on the stylesheets. That's the applied
side. I have always felt that the encoding protocol was really the more
important part of the Cookbook. The idea was to encourage consistent
content and markup by offering tools that would produce pretty results.
Another of these backdoor tricks to encourage standardized best practices.
I am dismayed that one of the unintended side effects seems to be "tag
abuse" to make data that does not conform to the encoding protocol display
nicely. This is either a perversion of my intent or simple necessity for
dealing with the myriad of reasonable possibilities that the Cookbook could
We now have several encoding protocols out there- from California, LC, and
elsewhere- that we ought to consider. I talked with several individuals at
SAA about bringing together a discussion of these with the possible goal of
formulating one consolidated recommendation. I personally have no interest
in perpetuating something independent for the Cookbook. The question is
who would do this and under what auspices. Could it be timed to incorporate
the work of CUSTARD?
If we had such an agreement as to data structures and their encoding, we
wouldn't need EAD lite or some local subset of the DTD. (By the way, the
later is, on a practical level, a dangerous direction in my mind. Who would
maintain these local variants when the master DTD changes? These are not
trivial concerns or simple technical matters. You thought XSLT was tough-
try writing a DTD without making a hash of it.) We could implement the
standardization in the form of work forms, templates, encoding protocols,
structural standards, etc.
Once we have some reasonably consistent content and encoding, then we can
talk about consistent presentation, which I also support. Many of you may
have heard my rant on this subject during a session at SAA. And I'm not
talking about the touches that provide institutional band identification of
the sort that Jim Cross mentions. Patrons understand library catalogs
because there is a consistency of content and presentation that we all
learned around fourth grade. Archivists need to learn a lesson from that
example. Are we ready?
Michael J. Fox
Assistant Director for Library and Archives
Minnesota Historical Society
345 Kellogg Blvd West
St. Paul, MN 55102-2409
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