I think Rick Silterra hit the proverbial nail right on the head! It isn't EAD that is complex, it is archival description that is unavoidably complex. We're all used to bibliographic models of a 1:1 relationship between a consciously created information entity (a book, a photo, a sound recording, a movie, etc.), but archival description is a 1:n relationship where n could equal tens, hundreds, thousands, millions of information entities of all sorts that were unconsciously assembled throughout the various activities in which some person or corporate body engaged. Describing this is no easy feat and anyone who thinks it is or should be obviously hasn't tried to do so.
Creating a collection-level description is, as Clay Redding pointed out, a good place to start and probably relatively easy for most people to do. And there are already tools like the Online Archive of California's templates that make EAD encoding of collection-level descriptions a breeze. You literally don't have to know anything about the encoding in order to generate a valid EAD record using the templates--what you do have to do is supply all the information the templates request according to the instructions supplied with the templates.
But descriptions of most archival collections at the collection-level only begins to scratch the surface of the richness of information in those collections, so while its a good step, most archivists know that it is only the first step. Which is why archivists worked to create EAD and continue to work to maintain it; refine our understanding of its application and utility in presenting rich, complex information to end users in a way that serves their needs; and work on developing tools, as Clay also pointed out, that will assist us in lessening the cost and complexity of generating an EAD-encoded multi-level finding aid from descriptive work that we already do.
None-the-less, archival description will remain complex. And anyone who thinks they can generate a useful EAD-encoded finding aid without engaging the complexities of multi-level archival description is, IMHO, kidding her/himself. But hey, as has been pointed out on this list before, the forthcoming CUSTARD standard that harmonizes Canadian and U.S. content standards for multi-level archival description will make this much, much easier by helping to focus anyone interested in doing archival description on what that term actually means!
Rick Silterra wrote:
> I guess I don't understand why people say EAD is "complex". It contains
> exactly what archivists asked for doesn't it? If you know what to put
> in a finding aid, you know
> what to put in an ead document -- you just have to understand how the
> tags relate to the traditionally provided data :-) And if you have
> questions - "Use the force of the list, luke"
> If I had data needing to be xml-ified, I would rather encode it with the
> parts of EAD that I understood -- than do nothing.
| Bill Landis
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