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Encoded Archival Description Finding Aids at the Library of Congress

Search and Browse Library of Congress EAD Finding Aids
Browse Finding Aids for:
Folklife Collections || Geography & Map Collections || General Collections || Manuscript Collections || Moving Image Collections || Performing Arts Collections || Prints & Photographs Collections || Rare Book Collections || Recorded Sound Collections

What is an archival finding aid?

Archival institutions such as the Library of Congress routinely create detailed inventories, registers, indexes, and guides that describe the collections of primary source material under their control. These descriptive access tools, commonly called archival finding aids, provide more complete information about a collection than you will find in the Library of Congress' online catalogs. Finding aids often provide information about a collection's provenance and the conditions under which it may be accessed or copied; biographical or organizational histories related to the collection; a note describing the scope and content of the collection; and progressively detailed descriptions of the parts or components of the collection together with the corresponding call numbers, container numbers, or other means for researchers to identify and request the physical entities of interest to them.

What is EAD?

The Library of Congress has helped develop an international standard for encoding archival finding aids, called Encoded Archival Description (EAD). This standard is maintained by the Library’s Network Development and MARC Standards Office in partnership with the Society of American Archivists.

How do I search and browse the Library's EAD finding aids?

You may search and browse across all EAD finding aids created for the Library’s archival collections using two different pages:

Search/Browse Library of Congress Finding Aids ("outline view"): The default option for viewing the Library’s EAD finding aids uses HTML frames with an expandable table of contents on-screen at all times. This table of contents provides an anchor to help you navigate through these highly contextual descriptions of our collections. “Outline view” searches retrieve the finding aid sections most relevant to your search query. Each section loads quickly into your browser and may be printed separately. Even when you retrieve individual finding aid sections, however, you may still navigate through the entire finding aid using the table of contents frame. Because the “outline view” treats each finding aid section as a unique document, searches are processed against an individual section rather than against the finding aid as a whole.

Search/Browse Library of Congress Finding Aids ("full view"): The Library also provides a single HTML file without frames as an alternate presentation of LC’s EAD finding aids. This view allows you to search within the entire finding aid and to print the complete finding aid. Remember, however, that large finding aids may load very slowly.

In what formats can I download EAD finding aids?

The Library of Congress has converted its EAD finding aids from Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML) to Extensible Markup Language (XML), and now uses the latest version of the EAD document type definition (DTD), known as EAD 2002. The Library’s EAD finding aids are also available as PDF files derived from the XML.

XML finding aids can be downloaded directly from for those who wish to view the raw EAD encoding.

What guidelines does the Library follow for EAD finding aids?

Recommended Best Practices for Encoded Archival Description Finding Aids at the Library of Congress (EAD Version 2002) describes practices used to create the Library's EAD 2002 finding aids. These guidelines are used in conjunction with the EAD Tag Library (version 2002) and EAD Application Guidelines, both published by the Society of American Archivists and the Library of Congress. These guidelines also conform to the Research Library Group's RLG Best Practice Guidelines for EAD 2002.

Are all the Library's finding aids available as EAD documents?

Not all Library of Congress archival collections are described by EAD finding aids. Some older finding aids are available online through the reading room web pages such as the American Folklife Center, Geography and Map Reading Room, Manuscript Reading Room, Motion Picture and Television Reading Room, Performing Arts Reading Room, and Prints & Photographs Reading Room. In addition, many legacy finding aids are only available in printed form in the reading rooms of a number of the Library's special collections divisions. You may also search for the Library's special collections through the Library of Congress's online catalogs.

EAD DTD Official Web Site | Library of Congress Services for Researchers | Library of Congress Catalogs

   The Library of Congress
   August 23, 2007

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