Robyns' previous postings to the archives and archivists list (not all of which
have been made accessible to those who read this list only) and the message
below suggests a number of premises, both stated and implied, that need to
be examined carefully.
1. Archivists ought not do anything
whose value has not been demonstrated by "numerous published assessment and user
If this is so, stop virtually everything you are doing
today until someone else studies it and publishes the results. That
includes creating MARC records and putting traditional inventories in HTML on
2. Implicit in the previous
premise is the assertion that assessment and user studies are the only
way we might know the value of a given archival practice.
To take this approach invalidates all individual
judgment and the collective experience of our profession. Where is
the "proof" of the benefit of respect des fonds to users? User
studies may well be helpful but as Wendy Duff suggests it is difficult to frame
let alone conduct and evaluate such studies.
3. Structured searching is the principal user benefit of
I know has asserted this. I suspect that research will show, when it
is done, that structured searching produces (as it does with print
materials) better results for those who understand the structure of the metadata
being queried and the nature of the indexing but that the majority of users will
still prefer to use full-text searching. On the other hand, the
ability to bring together multiple finding aids in union catalogs with the
resulting benefits of fuller access and consistent presentation are
powerful user benefits.
4. The only benefits of EAD are those that accrue to the
Hardly. In his initial posting, Mr. Robyns asked how he could get
his data our of HTML. He has, in effect, answered his own
question. He can't because HTML treats his finding aid as text for
display and not as data for manipulation and reuse. HTML is a one-trick
pony, a nag that's good for one race only. As archival
descriptive systems evolve, it will be especially important that the investment
in creating electronic versions of our information not be lost because it has
been spent on a technology that cannot migrate forward.
5. EAD is not widely implemented.
cursory following of the announcements on this list, including major initiatives
in the U.K. and France and too many in the U.S. to recount, reveals
the fallacy of that assertion.
6. Responses to his posting to the archives list confirm
hardly qualifies as a scientific survey and the replies are not unexpected given
the forum in which they were asked. Had the question been posed on
this list, there might have been a different mix of replies.
There are many good and valid reasons for
implementing EAD, or not. See the summer issue 1997 issue of
American Archivist or chapters 2 and 3 of the EAD Application Guidelines
for further discussion of some them.
It is one of the interesting aspects of having
been around the block a couple of times in this profession is that one sees
repeated evidence of the truth of the adage that the more things change, the
more the remain the same. Mr. Robyns' complaints remind me too
much of similar conversations 15 years ago about MARC. The
detractors then said MARC was too complicated and expensive for anyone but the
"big boys", that it added no value, that small institutions would never adopt
it, and that the federal funding agencies were "shoving it down our
throats." I realize that this comparison does not absolve us from
having the discussion again. NEH provides a useful
rationale for the use of EAD in projects that it funds that might serve as
a starting point for further
Would the EAD partisans out there
please provide links and/or citations to
any EAD assessment and/or user
studies. Given that EAD is about ten years
old and that several
hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent in
its development and
implementation, I believe it is reasonable to expect
that there should be
numerous published assessment and user studies.
Perhaps I am missing
something, but I see no such links or citations from
the Library of Congress
EAD web site.
This request is not spurious, but a serious attempt on my
part to get a
handle on EAD's effectiveness to the profession and our
Thank you for your help!
Marcus C. Robyns
Northern Michigan University
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