Here in Washington we are always interested in discussions of right or left (or middle of the road). But I found the juxtaposition of this topic and the post from Ms Blackman from New Zealand fascinating.


Reading about where to place container data reminded me of how we continue to use EAD and technology in general to replicate what we have become familiar with, in this case, a paper-based finding aid. And while the discussion about right, left, or middle is interesting, it seems mostly relevant for the world of paper.


I agree that we should reinforce the idea that a finding aid represents the intellectual arrangement. The physical arrangement is not represented, except as it mirrors the intellectual. Container information is not arrangement information. It is location information. I think you all know that.


I go a step further, however, and ask, in an online environment, why does this information need to be displayed?


Or, to the point of Ms Blackman’s query, “how do researchers go about requesting material?” How indeed? Because the point of having the location information is purely administrative, that is, to find the parts of the collection that researchers want to use. Leave the location information in the background and bring it up only when the material is requested. Have a mouse rollover or mouse click open a balloon with the location information.


Going to the next step, however, Ms Blackman asked the question I’ve ponder for several years: “Is there a way to allow researchers to login to the system and put in call slips for items they want to use in the reading room?” The answer is, yes, of course, but who will be the first to do it? I imagine an implementation where a click on the archival unit would bring up one of two different forms, depending on whether the request comes from the reading room or from outside.


If from within the reading room, the requester then enters an ID then submits. The request becomes a pull slip printed in the backroom for staff to use to retrieve the materials and deliver to the requester. (Add your own bells and whistles and policy-based rules).


If from an outside Internet location, users then print their own call slips to bring with them. Think of printing your boarding pass before leaving for the airport.


In either case, you may want to keep the container information confidential for security reasons. Print only a barcode which when scanned by the staff produces links to a location register with precise vault, range, and shelf information, in addition to box and folder information.


It is something to think about. It uses EAD as something more than a complicated typewriter to “print” pages on the screen.


And it goes with the idea of presenting container information not as the electronic version of a paper; as a stream of text organized as an outline. Instead, use graphic elements representing series, subseries, and files, each labeled and clickable. You can see a crude example of this on page 7 of my paper “The Invisible Hand and the Accidental Archives” given at The Henry Ford Choices and Challenges Symposium, October 2004 ( My examples show how a form could be used to order digitization, but it could be used to request a file also.




Max J. Evans
Executive Director
National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC)
National Archives and Records Administration
700 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Room 111
Washington, DC 20408-0001
phone: 202-501-5610 ext. 250
fax: 202-501-5601
mobile: 240-481-5358
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>>> [log in to unmask] 07/05/05 08:31AM >>>

Michele –- We are displaying component container information in the center, as last element of each component, agreeing that the intellectual structure (series/files/items) should be emphasized over physical location.  Our finding aids are in process of migrating from a previous site to a new one.  We still have a few more display glitches in the inventory area which need addressing in the style sheets, but we plan to "go public" with BAMCO (Brown Archival & Manuscript Collections Online) in the late summer, adding Brown University to the list of EAD implementers in the fall.  Meanwhile, keeping in mind this is in a provisional state, you can preview one of our finding aids (Guide to the William James Linton Papers, with digitized images attached) to see how the container information displays as last element of the component:


Sarah J. Shaw

Digital Initiatives Librarian (EAD Specialist)

Brown University Library

Box A  Providence, RI  02912

TEL:  401 863-1508  

FAX:  401 863-1272

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