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Encoded Archival Description (EAD)

The Encoded Archival Description Document Type Definition (EAD-DTD) is a non-proprietary standard for encoding online archival finding aids. Finding aids are inventories, indexes, or guides that are created by archival and manuscript repositories to provide information about specific collections. While the finding aids may vary somewhat in style, their common purpose is to provide detailed description of the content and intellectual organization of collections. For more information on how to use primary source materials and their associated finding aids, see the Archives Guide. Here are our online Archives Finding Aids.

EAD encoding is implemented using the XML (Extensible Mark-up Language) to encode the finding aids. For more information about XML and EAD see the EAD Help Pages maintained by the EAD Roundtable of the Society of American Archivists.

The Denver Public Library is encoding finding aids with XML and then translating them into HTML so that the files are readable using a broader range of Internet browsers. The appearance of the online finding aids will be similar to the model provided by SGML and XML implementations, with a navigator that shows the structure of the document and functions as a hypertext table of contents to the file and a search engine.

Finding Aid Structure

The encoded finding aids typically consist of several elements. They include the introduction, which includes the formal title and dates of the collection, along with acquisition and restrictions information, and a statement of extent (measured in both linear feet and estimated item count). The next element is a biographical/historical summary of the significant events in either the life of the person or the corporate body or organization whose papers/records constitute the collection. Following this is a descriptive summary of the scope and contents of the collection that contains information on the overall organization of the collection, materials of particular significance, and important topics and/or persons represented. The content and scope of each organizational unit in the collection, the series, with units within series known as sub-series, are described prior to the container list. The detailed contents of each collection are provided in the container list, which is arranged according to the actual physical organization of the materials. The box list includes the box numbers and folder titles within each box. The information for each folder includes folder number, date range, subject and contents. Additional elements that may or may not be present in every finding aid include separated and/or associated material, other repositories with related collections and special indexes.

Delivery Method

XML finding aids are delivered to XML capablebrowsers, such as Internet Explorer 5.0 and higher, created using an XSLT style sheet to control display. For non-XML capable browsers, the server converts XML and delivers an HTML version on-the-fly.

Encoding Procedure

Legacy formats are Microsoft Word with a standard structure and content. Encoding is done in-house, using XMetal in conjunction with a template created using an XSLT style sheet (to give a basic encoding structure) to guide staff in the markup of finding aids using XMetal. Legacy finding aids are converted and/or cut/pasted into the template. New finding aids will be authored directly into XMetal. XMetal validates the finding aids against the EAD DTD each time it is saved. Additional options for indexing and searching are currently being explored.

Current Status

Here is the Denver Public Library's Encoded Archival Description project.

For further information contact Jim Kroll, Manager jkroll@denverlibrary.org, Western History/Genealogy Department, Denver Public Library, 14th Avenue Parkway, Denver, CO, 80204-2731. Telephone 720-865-1820.

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Updated: June 25, 2013