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I happen to have prepared some comments about Internet Archivist for
some colleagues, so I thought I'd pass them on to the list.  I should=
 preface
this by saying that these were written in the context of trying to fi=
nd a system

which wouldn't require everyone to have a working knowledge of EAD.

Tim Hutchinson
=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=
=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=
=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D

These comments are based on use of the demonstration version, availab=
le from
http://www.interface.com/ead/.  According to the company=92s web site=
, =93The demo
version is fully functional except for the <c> and <c0x> elements.=
=94

User-friendliness

In some of its publicity, Interface Electronics claims that =93All en=
coding is
performed in plain English, thus the archivist needs no knowledge of =
the SGML
language.=94  It is true that EAD tags (whose meaning is not always c=
lear to
novice users) are translated into English =96 for example, <PHYSDESC>=
 is
translated as Physical Description.  However, this is not enough to r=
equire =93no
knowledge of the SGML language,=94 because an understanding of the st=
ructure of
EAD is required =96 the hierarchy of the tags, and the use of attribu=
tes.  An
archivist using this software package still needs to know, for exampl=
e, that the
extent statement must appear within physical description,
which in turn is within descriptive ID, etc.

For data entry, only one tag is displayed at a time.  This makes it d=
ifficult to
have an overall view of what tags need to be filled in.  An interface=
 that looks
more like a traditional worksheet (for catalogue records, accession r=
ecords,
etc.) would probably be more suitable, particularly if the individual=
 doing data
entry has no knowledge of EAD.

On the other hand, for those users familiar with the EAD, the softwar=
e may be an
improvement over some other SGML editors =96 the structure of the tag=
s seems to be
clearer.  Templates may also be created (although not with the interf=
ace you
might expect; see previous paragraph), and there is a =93learned tags=
=94
functionality (which I have not investigated).

Output

Three file types may currently be generated: SGML, HTML, and ASCII te=
xt.  There
seems to be very little flexibility in formatting the documents, howe=
ver.  There
are options offered for HTML output which relate to frames, backgroun=
d colours,
etc.  However, while <HEAD> tags are used, LABEL=3D attributes seem t=
o be ignored
=96 meaning that labels for parts of the finding aid are generally no=
t editable.

There also seem to be unpredictable results when tags are empty (with=
out
generating a warning message that certain required elements are missi=
ng).  At
least, when <EADID> was empty, the EAD output generated was completel=
y invalid,
with the <EADID> tag not being closed until after the <EAD> tag was c=
losed.

Other issues

While this software package may be a slight improvement over some oth=
er SGML
editors, it is limited to a single DTD.  When new versions of the EAD=
 are
released, it remains to be seen how quickly the company will be able =
to release
new versions of Internet Archivist.  Similarly, institutions using lo=
cal tags
would not be able to use Internet Archivist for those tags.  (On the =
other hand,
generic SGML editors allow the use of any valid DTD.)

Conclusion

Every since my first introduction to EAD, I have been convinced that =
systems
should be
developed to allow archivists, technicians and others to create findi=
ng aids
without needing a working knowledge of EAD or SGML.  From my perspect=
ive,
Internet Archivist is definitely not that system.  While it may have =
some
advantages for individuals who wish to learn EAD, the software packag=
e should be
examined closely to ensure that its current apparent limitations (out=
put
functionality, etc.) do not outweigh these advantages.


--
Tim Hutchinson
University of Saskatchewan Archives
301 Main Library, 3 Campus Drive
Saskatoon, SK  S7N 5A4
tel: (306) 966-6028  fax: (306) 966-6040
e-mail: [log in to unmask]