Gina Minks wrote:

> I think
> the key for me between using <abstract> and <scopecontent> is that the tag
> library definition for <scopecontent> states "a prose statement".  The
> "stuff" in our item level description isn't prose and isn't the same kind of
> info that we include in the series scope and content. . .hence...<abstract>.
> Let me know if you would like an example!

Fascinating discussion and very interesting to see the ways that colleagues make decisions about elements of archival description. While I certainly see the reasoning behind Gina (and others') decision to use <abstract> for these extraneous descriptive notes at the file or item levels, I guess this is one area where I think the EAD TL does a real disservice to the archival community in its vagueness, and where I think we need to turn to more established descriptive standards for help in determining what to do.

The real problem is that we tend to think (at least in the US with our descriptive inventory and MARC-centric background) of things like <scopecontent> only in terms of use at higher, aggregate levels of description like collection and series. ISAD(G) clearly weighs in that elements of archival description are available for use at any level of description. So what would <scopecontent> look like at the file or item level? Certainly wouldn't be as long or involved as when describing higher levels of aggregation like collection or series. Or put another way, a prose statement can be a short sentence as easily as it can be a couple of long paragraphs.

The bottom line for me is that it seems useful to look at existing standards for guidance and none of our existing standards (ISAD(G), APPM, RAD) define an element called abstract. So I would have a problem using EAD's <abstract> *in place of* <scopecontent>, or <unittitle> or <bioghist> for that matter (all elements defined in all three of the standards mentioned above). As a succinct summary of existing <scopecontent> and/or <bioghist> at the same level of description it seems fine, and we use it that way. But we're only using it when a more informative archival description element exists at the same level of description to provide more information to the end user.

We have lots of legacy finding aids with funny little half sentences tagged on to the file level descriptions. My tactic when encountering these while working on a legacy encoding project is to make them into real sentences that do what file-level scope and content notes are supposed to do, which according to RAD (the only one of the standards above that actually deals with descriptive elements at the file and item levels) is to "give information on the subject matter, the time period, and the geographical area to which [the file] pertains." The examples that Stephanie originally sent:

Correspondence, 1945-1967 (includes letters from Henry Miller)
Correspondence, 1968-1980 (includes signed photographs of the artist)

do just that. Putting the word "File" in front of each and a period at the end turns them, IMHO, into dandy file-level scope and content notes.

As far as display is concerned, if you're outputting an online version of a container list it should be relatively easy for a stylesheet to test for <c0x level> attributes of "file" or "item" and to ignore the <p> tags and append this information to the <unittitle> and <unitdate> so that it displays the way we're used to seeing it in our legacy print finding aids.


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