"Fox, Michael" wrote:

>         Bill Landis finds no guidance in ISAD(G); I would not have expected
> any because ISAD(G) is no more a content standard than the EAD Tag Library
> was meant to be.  I'm surprised that no one seems to have mentioned looking
> at APPM or RAD for direction.  To blame either ISAD(G) or the Tag Library
> for not being what they were not intended to be is unfair and has us looking
> in the wrong direction for solutions.
>         Perhaps the CUSTARD project will help, at least those of us in North
> America, shape the answers to these questions.

Not to quibble with my friend Michael too much, but I definitely didn't say I didn't find guidance in ISAD(G). Michael is right that it isn't a *content* standard, but it is a dandy standard for defining 26 commonly used *elements* of archival description, which seems to me like a helluva place to start in untangling what Michael describes as a "descriptive Tower of Babel."

And I did actually reference ISAD(G), APPM, and RAD all in the same sentence (and breath!). The point is that there isn't one easy answer, but relying on the 3 of those standards together one can, I think, extract pretty clear and useful guidance on what a scope and content note is at various levels in a multilevel archival description. One *can't*, and that was my point, extract any guidance on what an abstract is because it isn't defined in any of the above. I guess I'd rather park my data in some fairly universally recognized bucket, like scope and content, and let abstract serve as "a min-surrogate of a mini-surrogate."

But the overall gist of Michael's message is, I think, right on the money. Archivists can look for answers to many of these questions using the standards tools available to us, or we can turn to our repository's past practices and individual hunches to find answers. I feel a lot better about taking the former course, even though the ultimate answers I come up with aren't always easy, clear, or even  correct. But that's where discussions like these come in handy because they expose my halting, standards-based reasoning to the scrutiny of others and, hopefully, nudge the U.S. archival community centimeter by centimeter towards a more standardized, professionalized, and (a nod to Liz) programmer-friendly understanding of our descriptive data. And CUSTARD does promise to make the selection of standards to consult much simpler, since it promises to merge RAD and APPM within the framework laid out by ISAD(G). But that still leaves us in the quandary that Michael highlights -- do we turn to available standards for help with answers, or do we fall back on localized lore?


| Bill Landis
| Manuscripts Librarian, Special Collections and Archives
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