I've been spending a good bit of time
with ArchiveGrid since you sent out the notice earlier this year that it would
be available for a few months without cost, and I'm wondering if I have anything
to offer to you as a result of that. I've been doing only one large
search, locating all of the congressional papers collections through a simple
search for "congressional papers," and the results have been fascinating for the
diversity of presentation. As Dennis Meissner said in an article in the
early 1990s in AA, EAD is not the issue; how we compose finding aids is. I
would add that how we display information is, as well, but it's not so much
computer format as what is given priority. For instance, the Truman
Library presents one with a somewhat flashy page that at first doesn't look
overly informative, but it is one of very few repositories that tells me
instantly that this person whose collection has been pulled up by ArchiveGrid
actually was a member of Congress and when. The John F. Kennedy Library,
on the other hand, requires a second click to get any information at all beyond
creator's name and then, like many others, requires that the viewer read through
multiple paragraphs of biography to find out whether the person was a member of
Congress. (At least half of the hits from my search are
There are of course implications for
searches in how one uses EAD to express finding aid information, so clearly it
is not all finding aid format, but I would contend, with Dennis, that what we
are doing with finding aids, regardless of how we encode them, is the major
issue. If I am not mistaken, the term "finding aid," which to many patrons
is a completely meaningless term, refers to an aid created by archivists for
their own use in finding materials for patrons and was at first a list of box
contents. Indexes and catalogs of correspondence came a bit later and were
useful to patrons as well. But in the archival community, we don't seem as
yet to have focused clearly on the user's perspective, although SAA's DACS
(Describing Archives: A Content Standard) is a wonderful start in that
direction. We need user studies, though, and with serious researchers
about how they would like to be able to search if they could have the research
strategy of their dreams.
Enough from me. It's a topic in which I'm
intensely interested, as is perhaps obvious.
Kate Cruikshank, Ph.D.
Bloomington, IN 47405
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I am gathering information for two reasons:
I will be speaking at the upcoming SAA
conference on a panel called "The Future of Finding Aids" -- because RLG
hosts ArchiveGrid, I know a fair amount about rough proportions of archival
collection description in MARC, EAD, and HTML. I know nothing about other
formats (such as Word, PDF, etc) for collection descriptions, so I'm hoping to
get a handle on this.
If it turns
out that there are significant number of "other formats" this is interesting
information for future development of ArchiveGrid.
The survey will only take a few minutes if you
A rough idea of the number of
described collections in your institution;
A rough idea of how many of those collections are described ONLY in Word,
PDF, or other formats aside from MARC, EAD, or HTML.
I will be happy to share results (although not personal
data) after the survey.
RLG -- www.rlg.org
2029 Stierlin Court, Suite 100, Mountain
View, CA 94043 USA
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