Hi Bill and all,

After responding to Stephanie and then reading the other responses
(especially Bill's initial response), I am beginning to wonder if my answer
tends to be specific to the types of finding aids that I have been encoding.
Would the use of <abstract> be different at an item level as opposed to a
folder level?  In Stephanie's case, she is referring to/describing multiple
contents of the folder where at the item level I am summarizing the item.
For example:

<unittitle>  Allen, Jay. > "Simon."   <unitdate>14 Aug 1937.</unitdate>
  <abstract>My dear Simon: An introduction for Ernest Hemingway is most
certainly not necessary. . .</abstract>
  <physdesc>TLS, 1s.</physdesc>

(Again these are legacy finding aids that are being encoded.)  I also don't
think that I was very clear when I wrote that I tend to think of
<scopecontent> as "prose" - I think I was thinking of prose to be a complete
thought that could stand on its own.  The description of it in the tag
library leads me to think of <scopecontent> as something more substantial
and informative than what I am including in my <abstract>.

Any and all responses welcome!!

Gina L. B. Minks
Special Collections Librarian
McFarlin Library - University of Tulsa
2933 E. 6th
Tulsa OK  74104-3123
[log in to unmask]
tel: 918-631-3133
fax: 918-631-5022

-----Original Message-----
From: Encoded Archival Description List [mailto:[log in to unmask]]On Behalf Of
Bill Landis
Sent: Wednesday, January 30, 2002 4:30 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: component notes

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
> info that we include in the series scope and content. .
> 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

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

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.


| Bill Landis
| Manuscripts Librarian, Special Collections and Archives
| The UCI Libraries, University of California
| P.O. Box 19557, Irvine, CA 92623-9557
| 949 824.3113 Voice | 949 824.2472 Fax
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