EAD (Encoded Archival Description ; Version 2002 Official Site)

These statements are intended as guiding principles to be used in formulating future enhancements to the EAD DTD. They were developed as part of the project that led to the EAD 2002 DTD made public in late 2002. These principles support the objective of facilitating the widest possible use of EAD. When considering the submission of suggestions for possible change to the EAD DTD, the EAD Working Group will apply the following guidelines. Suggestions are not being actively solicited at this time, but prior to the next update to the EAD DTD, an online suggestions form will be made available, as was done prior to the most recent update cycle.

Design Principles

For Enhancements to EAD (December 2002)

  1. A goal of EAD is to make archival resources from many institutions accessible to users. To achieve this goal, EAD must accommodate a wide range of internationally divergent descriptive practices. The standard must be responsive to clearly articulated needs across the range of institutional or media-specific archival contexts.
  2. EAD element and attribute names must be as universal as possible in both language and application to accommodate international interchange. At the same time, it is important to provide mechanisms to meet specific language or media output needs.
  3. EAD addresses information about archival resources that is shared publicly. It is not a system for collections management activities such as the transfer of ownership, conservation, exhibition, use, storage or technical processing of materials.
  4. EAD is a data structure and not a data content standard. It does not prescribe how one formulates the data that appears in any given data element - that is the role of external national or international data content standards. The EAD Tag Library illustrates the type of data that is intended to be included in an element to the extent necessary to correlate that element to a descriptive area in a particular content standard. At the same time, care must be taken to ensure compatibility with such external standards.
  5. EAD is also a data communication format based on SGML/XML syntax. In some environments, archival description will be created and maintained using technologies such as relational or object-oriented databases, and EAD will be used principally as a transfer mechanism. In other situations, archives will manage descriptive data directly in SGML/XML-based systems. EAD must accommodate both environments.
  6. EAD focuses on the structural content of archival description, not on its presentation. However, the standard must provide sufficient mechanisms to support output in a variety of formats. These may include traditional forms of finding aids such as registers, inventories, and lists of various sorts, as well as new output forms for both web display and print.
  7. The EAD DTD specifies an order and grouping of elements to a limited degree. These are the internal structures of the DTD. For most output mechanisms using current technology, the order of elements within an EAD instance is irrelevant to the output of that data. Changes, as opposed to additions, to the structure will not be made simply to facilitate some output sequence or product.
  8. Continuity of structure and content is an important factor in ensuring the acceptance and continued application of EAD. While the technological environment for EAD is complex and challenging to many institutions, the goals of EAD will be best served if technical barriers to its use are minimized. Changes to the DTD need to be as technically transparent as possible. In general terms this means a preference for adding rather than replacing elements and for ensuring that new versions of EAD are backward-compatible.