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Encoded Archival Description (EAD)

The archives domain was slower than the library community to use machine readable records and it was not until 1993 that a project was started to develop a standard for machine readable finding aids, with version 1 released in 1998. This standard, the Encoded Archival Description (EAD), is increasingly used by archival repositories world-wide. The initial design used SGML as the carrier, but XML became available during the development period; it was therefore decided to make the format XML compliant so that either carrier could be used. The format maps closely onto the International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G).

The archives and library domains have different approaches to documenting their collections, with libraries focusing on individual items (of which they may have several copies) and archives focusing on the relationship of (usually unique) items in a hierarchical arrangement and this is reflected in the formats they use.

Although standardizing systems and terms within the archives domain is on-going, and there is still a lot of local practice, a set of internationally agreed terms is used in the format for the various levels of an archival collection.

Repository: County Records Office
Management group: Ecclesiastical records
Management sub-group: Anglican Church records
Fonds: Parish of St. John, Someplace
Series: Baptism registers
File: Baptism register 1875-1892
Item: A single entry in the register

While it is not possible to include a complete MARC record in EAD, some MARC elements can be embedded. Software can then be used to generate a skeletal MARC record by combining the individual elements, which can then be exported into a library catalogue and then be enhanced with additional data. When MARC elements are included they are identified by the use of the tag 'encoding analog'.

EAD records contain two segments with an optional third segment; when present the third segment is located between the other two segments.

  • Segment 1 (eadheader) contains much of the bibliographic information about a finding aid (e.g. a catalogue, a list, an inventory, etc.) and is held in a prescribed order. It is divided into eadid (a unique identifier for the finding aid, e.g. the ISBN of a published printed catalogue), filedesc (which is further sub-divided to hold details about the author, title, sub-title, edition and publisher of the finding aid), and profiledesc (which contains details such as the language of the finding aid).
  • Optional segment (frontmatter) allows an alternative presentation of the eadheader data to suit local practice.
  • Segment 2 (archdesc) contains information about the body of archival materials described by the finding aid. It is divided into level (management group, fonds, series), did (descriptive identification -physical description, location, etc.), admin info (scope of collection, arrangement, biographical notes), dsc (description of subordinate components), add (adjunct descriptive data), odd (other descriptive data), and controlled access headings.

Example of a brief EAD record

<eadid> 0123456789 <eadid>
<titleproper>Pitman Shorthand Collection</titleproper>
<author>Ann Chapman</author>
<date> 1990 </date>
<publisher>Bath University Library</publisher>
<archdesc> collection
<abstract>A collection of materials in and about shorthandcollected by Sir Isaac Pitman </abstract>
<controlaccess><subject encodinganalog="MARC650">Shorthand</controlaccess>

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Content by: Ann Chapman of UKOLN.
Page last revised on: 25-May-2005
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