The topic for the month of March was metadata for archival materials, specifically, the updates to the DACS and EAD standards, the adoption of a new standard, EAC-CPF, and the near completion of a new application for curating and publishing archival metadata, ArchivesSpace. The list of recommended resources for this meeting was previously posted.
The discussion opened with musings regarding EAC-CPF and how it might be implemented. A couple participants were concerned that the return on investment didn’t warrant the creation of encoded authority records for archives. Most creators of archival materials only produce one collection, an archivist explained, so there’s not a lot of reuse value in creating EAC-CPF records locally. Another participant pointed out that without a central clearinghouse of shared EAC-CPF records, one could expect a lot of duplication of effort. Here, a fundamental difference between archives and libraries becomes apparent: while libraries have learned how to share and collaboratively edit records in order to be more cost effective, archives hold unique materials. The opportunity for cooperative archival description rarely occurs.
Discussion participants were cautiously optimistic about ArchivesSpace. Many agreed that hand-coding EAD is not ideal. However, those in attendance from the EAD Working Group explained that they had examined the forerunners to ArchivesSpace, Archon and Archivists Toolkit, a few years ago. The working group members did not deem those tools stable enough to invest in, as they lacked long-term funding models. This is a common problem with many open source, grant-funded applications; there’s a risk factor involved. Fortunately, the architects of ArchivesSpace were well aware of this pitfall and announced in April 2012 that they had found an organizational home for ArchivesSpace in LYRASIS, a regional consortium with 1700 member institutions.
The goal is finding a well-supported tool that outputs EAD in a consistent manner. Kent State, as a participant in the OhioLink consortium, uses the OhioLink EAD Finding Aid Creation Tool (more about the tool and the repository in a 2007 article by Gilgenback, McCrory and Gaj). It does not require users to know EAD/XML. Many different kinds of archives and libraries contribute finding aids to the consortium.
The discussion turned to matters of capacity. With the Archives Online service now so streamlined, more repositories wish to partner with libraries in order to make their finding aids and digital content available, which is exactly what was intended! The gradual development of new tools and workflows lowered the barriers for participation in digital projects. One participant suggests that we’re experiencing the fortunate problem of digital projects not being as flashy anymore. We’ve integrated digital collections work into normal library operations so well that it has now become routine. With the growth in participation has come a resurgence of collections that present unique technical support challenges.
The Midwest Archives Conference was mentioned a couple of times during the meeting. The conference will be held in Indianapolis this year, April 18-20. Among many other topics, there will be an ArchivesSpace Project Update from Mark Matienzo and Scott Schwartz.
Julie Hardesty reported that there are 850 EAD-encoded finding aids available via the Archives Online at Indiana University. Of those finding aids, I’m not sure what percentage has been partially or completely digitized. If I can find that number I’ll post it here.
My notes for this meeting are very scant (I was too engrossed!). If I’ve missed anything, please note it in the comments. Thanks to all who attended!