Yesterday's post about "normalized dates" has me thinking once again
about how dates are used (or not used) in EAD records.  As far as I can
tell, RLG's ArchiveGrid doesn't permit searching by date (I could be
wrong on this, though, as I don't have full access to it, but it does
use Lucene to index its records; though I suppose that most of these
records are just MARC records?) and Proquest's Archive Finder does
permit searching by date, but it doesn't really allow you to do very
much (i.e. there's no way to rank your results by "relevancy").

This leads me to a question:  what sort of back-end systems are archives
using for their EAD records? (are there any surveys out there that has
this information, or should we start one???)

At ECU, we're using an XML database only, but we aren't doing any
advanced searching by date (primarily because, at this time, if you did
search for something like "1912", it's not going to limit your results
very much; and then, really, you're just back at the whole "browse by
collection name" situation).  However, you can do a keyword search for
"1912", and the results that are returned to you will be ordered by the
number of hits in each document, which, in my mind, is only a small
difference in functionality, but perhaps more useful (in most occasions)
than simply limiting your results to any and all collection date ranges
that contain the year "1912".

This leads me to another set of questions:  is anyone out there using
the "bulk" attribute as part of your information retrieval process?...
is anyone using dates beyond the collection range (those dates
associated with a series, folder, even an item) in the information
retrieval process?...  has anyone attempted to test their corpus of EAD
records with their current search operations vs. indexing and searching
those records by means of different models of IR, such as Nutch
<> , INDRI
<> , Solr
<> , or even just Google Custom Search???

I think it's great that we're encoding our documents so well, but I keep
wondering if we're harnessing that information in the best possible ways
yet (and perhaps the best solutions won't be tied to our encoding
practices at all).


Mark Custer

Text & Markup Coordinator

ECU Digital Collections