I've been struggling with the fact that (American) archival practice seems to bind contextual description (i.e., description of records creators) to records description. Much of these thoughts have been stirring in my head as a result of my class at Rare Book School. If we take a relatively hardline approach, e.g. the kind suggested by Chris Hurley ("contextual data should be developed independently of the perceived uses to which it will be put", 1, see also 2), it makes total sense to separate them entirely. In fact, it starts making me mad that the <bioghist> tag exists at all in EAD. Contextual description requires that it be written from a standpoint relative to that of the creator it describes. I guess what I keep getting hung up on is if there could be a relevant case that really merits this direct intellectual binding. I therefore appeal to you, humble readers, to provide me with your counsel. Do you think there are any such cases, and if so, why?
Crossposted to NYPL Labs.
I'm staying with colleagues and good friends during my week-long stint in Charlottesville, Virginia for Rare Book School. If you're here - particularly if you're in my class (Daniel Pitti's Designing Archival Description Systems) - let me know. I'm looking forward to a heady week dealing with descriptive standards, knowledge representation, and as always, doing my best to sell the archives world on Linked Data. Notes and thoughts will follow, as always, on here.
So, it's time for another rant about my issues with EAD. This one is a pretty straightforward and short one, and comes down to the issue that I should essentially be able to mix and match metadata schemas. This is not a new idea, and I'm tired of the archives community treating it like it is one. Application profiles, as they are called, allow us to define a structured way to combine elements from different schemas, prevent addition of new and arbitrary elements, and tighten existing standards for particular use cases.
However, to a certain extent, the EAD community has accepted the concept of combining XML namespaces but on a very limited level. The creation of the EAD 2002 Schema allows EAD data to be embedded into other XML documents, such as METS. However, I can't do it the other way around; for example, I can't work a MODS or MARCXML record into a finding aid. Why not? As I said in my last dEAD Reckoning rant as well as during my talk at EAD@10, the use of encoding analog attributes is misguided, confusing, and just plain annoying.
A while back, I wrote a Bad MARC Rant, and I considered titling this a Bad Metadata Rant. However, as the kids say, I got mad beef with a little metadata standard called Encoded Archival Description. Accordingly, I figured I should begin a new series of posts discussing some of these issues that I have with something that is, for better or for worse, a technological fixture of our profession. This is in part prompted by thoughts that I've had as a result of participating in EAD@10 and attending the Something New for Something Old conference sponsored by the PACSCL Consortial Survey Initiative.
Anyhow, onto my first bone to pick with EAD. I'm incredibly unsatisfied with the controlled access heading tag <controlaccess/>. First of all, it can occur within itself, and because of this, I fear that there will be some sort of weird instance where I have to end up parsing a series of these tags 3 levels deep. Also, it can contain a <chronlist/>, which also seems pretty strange given that I've never seen any example of events being used as controlled access terms in this way.