How long is long? The biggest finding aid that we currently have is still under 3 MB, and I wouldn’t want to break it up (at least not the canonical view of that page/finding aid). I personally like to equate a single finding aid with one (possibly) long scroll (but I understand the opposing view as well, and I nevertheless think that some delivery options will change if EAC gains widespread adoption). Of course, I’m sure that there are EADs out there that easily exceed what most email clients would permit as an email attachment, so those might have other concerns.
One of the reasons that I like the “single scroll” approach, though, is because I often access finding aids straight from an external search engine (and it’s much easier to figure out where I land if everything’s contained therein). The flipside of this, though, is that those very same search engines only index up to a certain, set limit (I’ve seen past quotes as low as 150 KB, but I just did a quick, informal test, and both Google and Bing have indexed one of our finding aids up very close to the 1 MB milestone; but after that, there’s nothing). So, I wouldn’t expect Google to index everything (and researchers, of course, would need to make use of the tools that we provide at the site level anyhow), and it just goes back to the fact that it’s best to have a finding aid with an excellent, narrative description. Alternatively, I wouldn’t use the “search engine index-limit” as an argument for breaking up the traditional view of a finding aid, since I’m sure that there are container list series out there that also exceed that limit (in short, I wouldn’t try to break everything up just so that you think that everything will be indexed by a search engine).
If delivery/size is an issue, though, my guess is that it would be advisable to follow Yale’s route if you want to separate the finding aid (that way, you wouldn’t always have to create multiple EAD files for a single collection; you’d just be portioning out the sections that you define).
This begs the question: what’s the biggest EAD online right now (and wouldn’t it be nice if there were an easy way to figure this out)? The largest one that I know of is for the Hugh Morton collection at UNC: http://www.lib.unc.edu/ncc/pcoll/P0081/P0081.html (it’s HTML version is getting close to 8 MB, and it still has a long way to grow before it’s complete).
Are there any repositories out there who are separating long finding aids into separate EAD files? If so, would you mind sharing your documentation of that process? I have an idea of how we might do it, but would like to see how other repositories are handling this.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Jennifer J. Betts
John Hay Library, Box A
E-MAIL: [log in to unmask]
TEL: (401) 863-2148