One of the basic questions that you need to consider, apart from the
technical issues such as developing a database design and eventually
exporting the data into an EAD structure, is the nature of the information
in your card file. It sounds to me like your item-level descriptions exist
independently of any internal arrangement within the collections whose
contents they describe. Of course, modern archival descriptive methodology
emphasizes the hierarchical arrangement of materials into logical groupings
based on provenance or, as it often happens, on an order that the archivist
has had to impose on materials that were received in an unordered state. If
the collections are no more than aggregations of items, then one can imagine
a contemporary finding aid (EAD encoded or not) that is essentially an item
by item inventory. However, if that is not the case, your basic problem
will be in establishing and documenting that larger internal order and then
placing, if you will, your item-level descriptions within those groupings.
And database design gets trickier as those overarching internal structures
become more complex and layered.
From: Michael Rush [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Tuesday, May 14, 2002 2:45 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: EAD Database - Where to start?
I am feeling a bit intimidated by the next phase of all things EAD here at
the Mass. Historical Society. So far I've been able to design a template
for our finding aids, encode a few with XMetaL, and develop an XSL
stylesheet to convert them to HTML. I'm still working on the container list
portion of the XSL stylesheet, and anticipate sharing some questions
regarding that soon, but I know I can figure it out.
The next thing on our agenda is using EAD to provide access to item
descriptions currently on catalog cards. We are slowly reorganizing
hundreds of thousands of item cards by collection. Creating MARC records
for these cards is unfeasible...it would make the online catalog entirely
unuseable. The hope is that we will be able to deliver this item data via
Inputting the data into a database and then extracting it into EAD seems
like it would be the most efficient solution. It would allow data
normalization, and could (hopefully) be done by part-time student help,
whereas inputting the data directly into an EAD instance would create a
greater likelihood of errors and would require the person performing the
input to have more archival skill and experience.
Seems sufficiently straight forward , but the HTML background that helped me
get a quick handle on EAD and stylesheets doesn't help with database design
and extraction. Starting at the EAD page at LoC I found and read several
interesting help pages on EAD database extraction from Berkeley, but
otherwise I've been at a loss to find anything that will point me in the
I apologize for being long-winded, but I've struggled just figuring out what
it is that I don't know and I needed to suss things out a bit. Here are the
essential questions, as far as I can gather:
What database software should I use? (Filemaker Pro and Access are the
What data needs to be captured from the item cards? (I have a firm grasp on
What EAD tags correspond to that data? (Likewise mostly under control)
How to design the database to best capture the data on the cards?
How does the data get extracted?
How does the extraction mechanism affect how the database should be set up?
Does the hierarchical nature of EAD complicate data extraction?
And most importantly: Where do I start to answer these questions?
Any guidance on this matter will be greatly appreciated. I don't want to
reinvent the wheel, but I can't seem to find any other wheels.
Wishing I took a database management class in library school,
Michael Rush - Manuscript Processor
Massachusetts Historical Society
[log in to unmask] - (617)646-0553