Yesterday I was in London helping to run an ‘Introduction to EAD’ training day on behalf of the Data Standards Group and the London Region of the Society of Archivists. The last exercise I did with the delegates was to look at a randomly-selected set of resources based around EAD finding aids (courtesy of the EAD Implementor Listing maintained by the EAD Roundtable of the Society of American Archivists). One of the issues that came up was to do with labelling: both of parts of archival descriptions and of search options. Some of the sites are moving away from using the standard ISAD(G)/EAD headings for the descriptions, so that ‘Scope and Content’ becomes ‘Content’, which we agreed might be more meaningful for users of the services (although possibly confusing when comparing records from different sources). The search options and consequences of following links are sometimes not obvious without going ahead and testing them out, and the results displays were sometimes similarly confusing, even to a room full of archivists.

One of the sites we were looking at was that of the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam. We became distracted by its excellent ‘Today in History’ feature, which is rather like the Archives Hub’s ‘Collection of the Month’, but with the whole year’s supply of featured documents prepared in advance. The text for the last week’s worth is available through the Instiute’s Today in History RSS feed. Today’s document is entitled ‘Painkillers for Spirit Wrestlers‘, but it was the entry for 28th February that really woke everyone up at the end of the day.

On the way home I found myself looking at another label, this time on an electricity socket on the train:

Socket for Laptops and Mobile Phones only
It made me wonder why the railway company had felt compelled to attach the label. Had commuters been bringing their hairdryers on to the train in the mornings and blow-drying their hair? Or perhaps some entrepreneur had brought an electric kettle on to the train and started selling cups of tea to the other passengers. With a large cup of tea now costing

Free XML editor

Screenshot of XML Copy Editor and preview of HTML Many Hub contributors have invested in proprietary XML editing software such as XMetaL or Oxygen, but if you haven’t yet done so you might be interested in a free program called XML Copy Editor. It comes in Linux and Windows versions and makes it easy to validate EAD files. It’s also easy to associate style sheets such as the Hub’s so that you can get an impression of how your file will appear in a browser (which makes it a lot easier to proof-read). One feature I particularly liked was the ability to choose which browser to use for this: this is a failing in XMLSpy, which defaults to Internet Explorer (which then always crashes on my machine). I’ve never worked out how to change it to use Firefox (or any other browser), but it was easy to do that with XML Copy Editor.

Of course you don’t get all the functionality of the proprietary systems, but you are prompted as to which tags are valid at any point in the file, and there’s a handy special-character insertion menu, so if you don’t mind working with EAD tags visible, this looks like a good alternative to the paid-for options.

Picked up from Digitizationblog via the ArchivesBlogs aggregator.

EAD has a new schema (nearly)

I have been looking at the beta version of the new EAD schema today. This will eventually replace the DTD that we currently use to validate our EAD files. Usually when I investigate new standards and technologies, the way is fraught with problems, but this was almost indecently easy…..Actually, I should make clear that I mean easy to link to and validate some test documents. When it comes to actually thinking about making all of our Hub data validate to the schema, that may throw up far more issues. It seems that the main changes for us will be to do with the values for date ranges, the use of xlink to create links, and the need to change the repository code values (i’m still a little unclear about how this will actually work).

Isn’t it nice when something turns out to be far more straightforward than you thought it would be!

Training new archivists

View of Aberystwyth from Constitution HillJane and I had a great day yesterday in Aberystwyth, training the proto-archivists there in using XML and EAD. We’ve been given a copy of XMetaL software by Blast Radius for use in these sessions which really helps to give the students a feel for encoding descriptions in EAD.

The trainee archivists were discussing a joke I’d forgotten about:

Where did Noah keep his bees?

In the ark-hives

Still in Washington…

Interior of National Building Museum, Washington
Got a chance to go beyond the hotel and meeting rooms today and paid a visit to the National Building Museum, which is housed in an amazing building, once the Pension Bureau (paying pensions to men who fought in the American Civil War). The museum’s exhibits used a good mixture of archives and artifacts. There was a hands-on part where you could try to build a brick wall using various different brick bonding patterns. Noticed the sign below on my way round the building, which made me think of EAD.
Controlled Access Area

Opportunity for training in EAD

The Society of Archivists’ EAD/Data Exchange Group will be running an Introduction to EAD training day on 25 April 2006. Both Amanda and Jane are part of the Group Committee, and, together with Bill Stockting from TNA, they will be the tutors for this course.

For those Hub contributors who want to know more about XML in general, and EAD in particular, this course provides a good general introduction. It also gives delegates the chance to create an EAD record from scratch, using XML editing software. This course is not aimed specifically at Hub contributors, so it will not be about the Hub implementation of EAD, but will look at general principles of using EAD.

Whilst many contributors may be happy to use the Hub template to create records, it can be worthwhile to learn more about the prinicples behind EAD, and gain a greater understanding of the syntax and semantics. We are offering this course at a very good price this year (