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We've created a database that does much of what you are describing. Our institution works with both records management and archival functions, so our database is designed to capture the intellectual information about a record series during its full lifecycle. Staff members first enter retention schedule information, then more data is added over time which eventually leads to a finding aid for permanent records, and indexes to individual series when circumstances warrant. The data fields are automatically mapped to the MARC catalog and EAD and can be exported as needed. When an index exists, there is an automatic link to it created in the finding aid. Having the EAD come straight from a database reduces a lot of work. The system will automatically create a link to administrative histories and related records if they exist, too. Indexes can either be created using Excel or Access and then imported into our database, or often I just create an input process in the application first and users go there to do their data entry.

I created a couple of Flash movies a while ago that will show you parts of our system. We've added new functionality since then, but this will give you the basic idea of how it works:

http://archives.state.ut.us/EAD/EADtour.html 
http://archives.state.ut.us/indexes/indexes.html 

If you want to see how the index searching works on our website, to go http://historyresearch.utah.gov/indexes/index.html . The largest database we have there is the death index, which contains about 260,000 records and links to death certificate images. You can either search all of the indexes concurrently, or each individually. Our system will also produce retention schedules on demand. If you would like to see those, go to http://archives.utah.gov/main/index.php?module=Pagesetter&func=viewpub&tid=1&pid=232 . Eventually the finding aids will be accessible as an on-demand report from the database, but at the moment we are moving from the DTD to the Schema and cleaning up as we go, so what we have on our website is just the static previously-transformed XML to HTML and PDF.

Our system is running on a Linux server. The software we use is called APPX, which is a combination rapid-application-design programming language, database, and runtime environment. We also have some of our data in Oracle so that we can share it with other systems. Basically what we've done is use the underlying APPX product to create our own applications. The greatest advantage to that is that it is very easy to make changes when business needs change, once you or your programmer is fully trained in that language. There are actually many people in The Netherlands using this software. If you are interested, you might want to get in touch with them. The vendor can direct you (www.appx.com).

Elizabeth Perkes
Utah State Archives

>>> Gijsbert Kruithof <[log in to unmask]> 6/11/08 12:37 AM >>>

Apart from our finding aids in EAD the National Archive in the Netherlands also has about 300 indexes, cardboxes and databases. They contain information about persons and places and other content not specifically described in the inventories. Some databases contain more than 100.000 items on which information can be found in an archive. (See for instance http://databases.tanap.net/vocrecords/)
Because of their size and complexity these indexes and databases are difficult to incorporate in the EAD inventories. Maybe we are confronted here with the limitations of EAD as an XML file format ...

Does anyone has experience in dealing with these 'finding aid databases'?

We plan to create a Database Management System containing all the databases. This DBMS will be complementary to the EAD inventories and contain links to the inventorynumbers.
But maybe there are other options. We would be very interested.

We would especially like to know if someone has experience setting up such a system with regard to:
- functionality for staff and volunteers
- choice of DBMS and software: MySQL/PHP or SQL-server/ASP or something else
- datamodel
- linking functionality to EAD inventories
- digitizing typoscript cards from cardboxes

We appreciate all suggestions

Gijsbert Kruithof
Senior archivist
Nationaal Archief
The Netherlands