End Report of Workpackage 1: Audit of Finding Aids



1. Objectives of Workpackage

Workpackage 1 aimed to carry out an initial survey of the different finding aid systems of the consortium partners, including their use of international, national or institutional standards, the levels of description used, and the structure and arrangement of fonds and collections.

2. Timetable and Progress

The workpackage was due to start in January 1999 and be completed by June 1999. There was a delay in starting the project, but the initiation meeting was held in Edinburgh in February and the second meeting in Stockholm in June. The workpackage was completed following the second meeting.

3. Main conclusions

3.1 All the partners use multi-level description, based around the fonds or collection. The overall concepts of fonds, sub-fonds, series and items are present, though not all use the same vocabulary - in Italy for example the ACC uses Indicator and sub-indicator.

3.2 The original decision to concentrate on top (collection or fonds) level descriptions is correct, though in some cases, again Italy is the example, the topmost level may not give particularly rich information and it may be necessary to go down a level.

3.3 The use of ISAD(G) elements offers the best method of co-ordinating across the different finding aid systems. All consortium partners recognise the value of ISAD and can map their systems to it, at least in part. All partners can map to the minimum subset of 5 elements for international data exchange.

3.4 The use of a standard structure will aid multi-lingual working, because certain key elements will always appear in the same place. Even if the language is not known, the structure will, for example, enable the retrieval of name and date information.

3.5 The multi-lingual dictionary of archival terminology will be a valuable tool for archivist users. It will assist the non-archivist user, but to a lesser extent. Language issues remain an important challenge for the project.

3.6 Name authorities will be of value, but there are national differences in the existence and use of authorities. This is compounded by national differences in the way place and personal names are dealt with, even when the same entity is being described. It is beyond the scope of the project to bridge such differences, but they can be pointed out.

3.7 An issue for the project to tackle is the relationship between the ISAD standard which covers both data structure and content and other resource finding initiatives such as Dublin Core and MARC. A further issue is the relationship between the EAD document type definition and MARC as a means of data exchange.

3.8 It is vital to consider the end user who will not in the majority of cases be an archivist and to whom levels of description and technical vocabulary will be unknown. This suggests that there should be at least two formats for display of descriptive data, one which clearly shows the ISAD elements and one which presents the information in a simpler way.

3.9 Legal issues are of less significance to this project than to others, as it is primarily concerned with finding aids, in which copyright invariably rests with the institution creating them. Even in the case of Italy, where an existing system of arrangement is being retained, the finding aids are being compiled again from scratch.

4. Deliverables

The following table shows the deliverables due from this workpackage, with the result.

Due end of month no From Workpackage no Name of Deliverable Status Progress
2 1 Specification of top level finding aids and relationship with detailed finding aids in each partner archive Public completed
June 1999
3 1 Report of initial expert meeting Public completed
15 June 1999
4 1 Document on comparative reports on study of finding aid approaches Public included in specifications
5 1 Report of second expert meeting Public completed
5 July 1999

5. Relation with Other Workpackages

The conclusions above will inform Workpackage 2, which started following the Stockholm meeting.

George MacKenzie
Project co-ordinator
December 1999

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Last updated 29 November 1999.

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