Thought you might like to see this. Very interesting timescales, eh?
-----Original Message-----
From: Brad Westbrook [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: 25 January 2001 23:18
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Encoding Options (Database vs. XML editors)

Hi, Kelcy,
In 1993 the Mandeville Special Collections Library at UCSD used FoxPro dbms to create a relational database application for processing archives and manuscripts. 
Overall the process took about two years to complete, from start to finish.  There were three primary areas or sub-processes.  Building the database--defining the tables, their relationships,
various routines, and input / query templates--was completed in about 5 months, with a few months after that spent in adjusting and refining.  The database application, started in August of 1993, was moved into production in February of 1994.  Transferring existing descriptive data from word processing files to database records took all of two years to complete.  Narrative sections of finding aids were easily cut and pasted into the database records, but inventory lists had to be rekeyed.  The former was done by the associate archivist, and he directed students in doing the latter.  Finally, three months or so at the end of the 24 were spent in developing report forms that would output the descriptive data in EAD, in HTML, in ASCII, and in print.  We still provide these four "flavors," but are working on reducing the three electronic flavors to one--EAD XML. 
The interfaces of the database is very easy to use, and provides two levels of access--one for the archivists and one for the staff / student inputters.  All collection level description--that is, the narrative preliminaries--is done by full-time staff, whereas the inventory descriptions are input by students.  Management of the application--deletion of records, modification of edit templates and reports forms, etc.--is done only by the archivists.  The templates ensure a certain amount of data consistency, and they have reduced some of our training costs.  We used to have to train students in to the overall composition of a finding aid, but that is no longer necessary as finding aid construction is now done by the application. 
The encoding routines are quick, almost completely transparent, and easy to modify.
The database application also makes it easier for us to collect certain kinds of managerial information such as how many linear feet were accessioned for a specified time period, how many linear feet were processed, how many accessions were MARC cataloged, etc. 
The original database, still in use, was constructed using FoxPro 2.6 for Windows.  We are currently in the process of upgrading it to Visual FoxPro. 
I hope some of this answers some of your questions.  If you have any other questions, please ask.
Congratulations on the new position!!  We all know it is going to be lots of fun!!
Brad W.
Bradley D. Westbrook
Manuscripts Librarian / University Archivist
Mandeville Special Collections Library 0175S
University of California, San Diego
La Jolla, CA  92093-0175
Tel:  858-534-6766
Fax: 858-534-5950
Email: [log in to unmask]
----- Original Message -----
From: [log in to unmask] href="mailto:[log in to unmask]">Kelcy Shepherd
To: [log in to unmask] href="mailto:[log in to unmask]">[log in to unmask]
Sent: Thursday, January 25, 2001 1:54 PM
Subject: Encoding Options (Database vs. XML editors)

I am hoping for some feedback on methods for encoding finding aids in EAD. After reading through the EAD Sites Annotated, it is clear that there is no one best encoding solution! The recent changes in the availability of software for these types of project further complicates the choice.

We are starting a three year EAD project that involves five institutions, and will encompass both conversion of legacy finding aids and the creation of new ones. Four of the five institutions are currently using Word or WordPerfect to create finding aids. Of these, two also have some collection-level description in a database format (InMagic and Minaret) but neither of these use the database for complete finding aids. One institution generates complete finding aids for all of its collections from a database (Minaret). We would like to utilize the same encoding method for new finding aids at all institutions. Obviously, a tool that would also help to automate the conversion process would be ideal.

The lack of off-the-rack archival management databases with EAD export features leaves us with the choice of creating a database for the project or customizing one of the XML editing programs. The systems department here may be moving toward the use of Oracle, so unless someone out there has an Oracle db they’d like to share, we would be looking at developing a brand new database. Given these options, my question are:

For those of you out there who developed a custom database, how long did the process take? For those using an editing package, how long did it take to customize the software for ease of use?

For both scenarios, are you producing other formats in addition to EAD (i.e. print, HTML)? Is the interface simple enough for a student to do data entry?

Given the status of our legacy finding aids, can anyone speak to which options would be most useful in the conversion process?

And, as long as I’ve got your attention, is anyone creating MARC records from the encoding analogs in EAD?

General comments regarding encoding methods would also be welcome. Thanks for the help.

-Kelcy Shepherd
Kelcy Shepherd
Director, Five College On-Line Finding Aids Access Project
Special Collections & Archives
W. E. B. Du Bois Library
University of Massachusetts Amherst
Amherst, MA 01003-9275
Phone:  413.545.6844

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