Standard: Encoded Archival Description (EAD)

Sponsor: Society of American Archivists (SAA) and Library of Congress (LOC)

Description: The EAD Document Type Definition (DTD) is a standard for encoding archival finding aids using the Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML). An XML version has also been developed.

Relationship to Records Management: If they cannot be found when needed, records are worthless. Indeed, if large volumes of records are maintained indiscriminately and without finding aids (metadata), they may be worse than worthless because: a) there are costs and risks associated with maintaining them, plus b) the volume makes it more difficult to access and distinguish those that may be pertinent from those that are not.

The DoD 5015.2 standard specifies metadata elements that are applicable to the management of records by all U.S. federal agencies. The commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) applications that have been certified under the 5015.2 standard use SQL-based databases to capture and manipulate document/record metadata, but those elements could also be embodied in a records management DTD.

The FIRM Standards Committee plans to propose a standard set of metadata elements for Governmentwide use to describe records at the Series level in agency Records Schedules. If such a standard is adopted, it could be incorporated into an XML DTD, as well as SQL-based ERMSs certified under the 5015.2 standard. If all of the Record Series of all agencies are described in a standard DTD and all such DTDs are indexed and maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), the collection would provide a powerful means of finding and distinguishing government information. The SF 115 could be redesigned and implemented in a Web-based workflow automation system to accommodate such purposes.

The relationship to the Government (or Global) Information Locator Service (GILS) should also be noted.

Problems/Issues/Weaknesses: Neither DTDs nor EAD are widely used or supported in the marketplace. Users do not want to spend time associating metadata or otherwise managing their records for access and reuse by others, much less for archival. Also, unlike SQL-based electronic document/record management systems, which are fairly well established, the utility of DTD-based applications remains to be proven in the commercial marketplace. In particular, unlike relational databases, which are designed to facilitate the collection, management, and manipulation of dynamic data, DTDs are static, text-based files. Editorial change and version control, record locking, validation of data values, and other constraints applied to DTDs must be enforced by external applications, each of which may use proprietary means of doing so.

Closely Related Standards: DoD 5015.2, SGML, XML, and SQL

Links to More Information:

Encoded Archival Description Official Web Site

Encoded Archival Description Resources, Society of American Archivists

Archiving Standards, European Commission's Open Information Interchange

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