Third Meeting, Part One, Edinburgh, 22-23 September 1999



Attendance: G�ran Kristiansson, RA; George MacKenzie, John Shaw, NAS; Rob Mildren SCAN. Observer, 23 September only: Emma Riley, Electrum Multimedia
Apologies: Jaap Kloosterman, IISG.

1. Workpackage Progress

It was agreed to proceed with workpackage 3 as planned, with RA (Goran) taking the lead. Some slippage in the timetable was noted (expected end date was 30/9/99), and a new target to complete by end January 2000 was agreed.

2. Audit of Systems

The audit of systems should concentrate on RA and on IISG initially, with NAI next. NAS system is scheduled to be revised shortly, and audit of older system is of less interest. NAS and SCAN systems are likely to follow similar architecture and can usefully be studied as a single unit.

  • RA: The meeting reviewed the Arkis 2 system used by the Riksarkivet in detail. This is a full implementation of multi-level description, and is directly in line with thinking in NAS and SCAN. Based on a relational database (SQL Server 7 software) it supports all archive activities. The data model with English labels is given in Annex 1. A summary of the system is given in Annex 2. It was agreed that in view of its advanced stage of development and similarities to other partners work, Arkis 2 should be adopted as the platform for the next stage of development.
  • IISG: It was agreed that the review of the IISG system will be carried out by Goran Kristiansson and Rob Mildren during November/December (subject to availability of Jaap).
  • NAI: The initial audit will be carried out with Peter Horsman in Amsterdam, following the meeting with IISG in November/December.
  • NAS/SCAN: Implementation of a new system will start in the second quarter of 2000. It is likely to follow the same broad path as Arkis 2. As it is a later developer, it will be possible to build compliance with EUAN guidelines into it at the beginning.

3. Language Issues

There are a number of stages to be gone through:

  • Initial translation of the Arkis 2 screens will be carried out by Bjorn Lindh and George MacKenzie; careful consideration needs to be given to devising labels that are clear and unambiguous for users who will not know or care about archival descriptive hierarchies.
  • Incorporation of the DAT3 archival terminology database into the prototype; can the same system be used to substitute alternative language labels?
  • Investigation of links with web translators.
  • The proposals from WP2, to provide summaries of top level descriptions in alternative languages was noted; these might use the EAD tag <abstract>.

4. Prototype Development

The main prototype development is properly in WP5, but it was agreed to invite a representative of Electrum Multimedia to the meeting and to consider initial stages.

It was noted that Electrum are named in the contract between NAS and the Commission, and it was agreed to seek the Commission's approval to sub-contract software development to them.

It was agreed to adopt a modular approach, in which parts of the prototype will be developed separately, and linked together. This will:

  • produce early practical successes
  • allow development costs to be carefully monitored
  • allow better understanding of the needs of both parties

A number of modules are required, including:

  • descriptive element label converter (based on the 11 ISAD(G) elements agreed in WP1-2)
  • date converter
  • name converter
  • dictionary (based on DAT3 terms)

It was agreed to work on the dictionary module initially.

5. Next Stage of Development

Goran agreed to study the practicalities of the Z39.50 interface with Swedish library colleagues and then commission some development work from within the RA programming capacity.

2 November 1999

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Arkis 2 System Description

The new Arkis 2 system, currently being implemented in the Swedish National Archives, has a relational database using SQL Server and uses EAD as an exchange format. Once XML is more widely used and supported by web browsers, EAD will be used as an output format for displaying Arkis 2 searches on the Riksarkivet website.

The Riksarkivet set up their National Archive Database (NAD) in 1990, covering the holdings of the national archives and the provincial archives in Sweden. In 1993 it received a boost, with the provision of 1,000 young unemployed people to work on it, under a government scheme. An early principle was not to re-invent things, and accordingly the MARC-AMC standard was adopted, not to create records in a MARC system but to tag data elements to allow the export of information.

The data model for the Arkis 2 system shows the relations of the different parts to each other, distinguishing the intellectual or knowledge level from the physical or operational level. Arkis 2, unlike its predecessor Arkis 1, allows true multi-level descriptions for the first time. It has been designed to cover all archival activities, including, for example, locations of documents.

Arkis 2 has, from the outset, been designed as an Internet available service. During the development phase, EAD emerged and its value was quickly recognised. It is used in the same way as MARC-AMC was used, as a means of tagging data elements in the system to allow the export of archival information. In their application, some parts of the descriptions are tagged using a simple XML editor, both to give formatting instructions (boldface, italic, etc.) and to indicate certain descriptive elements (names within scope and content etc.) These are known as "XML fragments" and they are still investigating the best editing software to use. He emphasized that the foremost purpose of standards is not to make life easier for archivists but for users.

One interesting feature of the Arkis 2 system is the way it can display multiple levels of information, including the automatic construction of an organisation chart, based on the descriptive levels. The display follows the format used in Windows file trees. This will allow users to see how the levels of description are derived from organisational levels, in a graphical way.

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Last updated 1 March 2000.

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