An excellent question.
The answer depends entirely on the search engine that one is using to
access this EAD inventory. Consider a parallel question. Can your
library online catalog find all the books published in Philadelphia?
The data is there in the MARC record in field 260,subfield a. But can
a Notis or Innovative Interfaces or GEAC or Dynix system search on this
data? The answer is specific to the way each vendor has programmed
search criteria into their system (often with some user customization
When we design and purchase online library catalogs, we have many years'
experience in user requirements to know what features in this area we
Alas, we have no such body of knowledge- maybe some quesses- as to what
would be useful for retrieving archival records. The other variability
in search systems will be the extent to which we tag content in the EAD
document. Do we mark up every instance of a personal name where ever it
occurs in the text of the finding aid? With catalog records, MARC
pretty much defines the level of granularity that we must apply to
fields that are commonly thought of as access points- names, subjects,
titles, etc. We have no concensus yet on the level of granularity for
content designation within EAD.
There are at least three issues that play out here
One is the chicken and egg situation- we don't know what works because
we don't have anything to test because we don't know what works because
we haven't encoded data because we don't know what's needed. A few
brave institutions are venturing out there with search engines that are
trying different approaches. Until the results are in, and I hope
someone out there in archival studies programs is going to do some user
testing of these systems, we must make some guesses. The University of
Toronto for one has begun such an investigation.
The other side of the coin is the economic aspect of this- what is the
cost-benefit of more detailed markup? We have to consider more than
just the first question- is detailed markup and detailed retrieval a
good and useful thing? Lots of things are useful but is the benefit
worth the added labor we would have to invest?
Finally, there is the question of how we present the search options to
users who may not understand the nature of the materials in the
collection or the structure of finding aids. An OPAC search for a
bibliographic title works for two reasons- the user has some idea of
what a book title is and the fact that book titles tend to be mostly
unique and may be known in advance of the search. Few know what the
concept of an archival series might mean and what the significance would
be to limiting a search to the content of a single series. Search
engines can do that now conceptually but how would we build a user
interface for such a inquiry? Would it make any sense to the average
One of the benefits of content markup like MARC or EAD is the
possibility of more refined and integrated inforamtional retrieval. We
need to offer soemthing more useful than the strong arm approach that
key word retrieval affords. As proof of that, I offer the Web.
Head of Processing
Minnesota Historical Society
345 Kellogg Blvd West
St. Paul MN 55102-1906
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**NOTE NEW AREA CODE EFFECTIVE JULY 12, 1998**
> From: Yax, Maggie (YAXME)[SMTP:[log in to unmask]]
> Sent: Wednesday, October 14, 1998 2:22 PM
> To: Multiple recipients of list EAD
> Subject: Concern regarding number of "hits"...
> Please forgive this theoretical, naive and possibly silly concern. I
> processing the Albert B. Sabin (developer of the live, oral polio
> papers at the Cincinnati Medical Heritage Center. I have not yet
> begun to
> markup my inventory but am anticipating doing so when the processing
> of this
> large (ca. 400 l. ft.) collection is completed. I have taken the EAD
> workshop and have been lurking on this list for a while as well as
> visited sites with inventories in EAD. I understand that one of the
> benefits of EAD is the precise retrieval the user will enjoy. When I
> try to
> imagine how that might work for an inventory of this size (being
> at folder level detail), my mind boggles at the number of "hits" (tho'
> precise) one might get when searching for, say, poliomyelitis. This
> could be minimized if one could search only one series or subseries.
> I have
> not been able to determine if this is possible with EAD or if such a
> capability is planned. It's quite possible (probable!) I don't
> this well enough -- am I worried about nothing? Or is this a
> problem for large collections described at folder level detail? Many
> for any light folks can shed on this.
> Maggie Yax, Albert B. Sabin Archivist
> Cincinnati Medical Heritage Center
> University of Cincinnati's Medical Center AIT&L
> 121 Wherry Hall
> Cincinnati, OH 45267-0574
> Phone: (513) 558-5121
> Fax: (513) 558-0472
> Email: [log in to unmask]