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Types of Software

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7. Types of Software


In 2005, Katherine Wisser reported on an EAD Tools Survey that revealed the diversity of ways in which archives created finding aids and the difficulty that smaller institutions in particular had in authoring and publishing EAD. Wisser divided EAD tools into four categories: authoring, publishing, discovery (search tools), and knowledge (best practice guides). One of the most used tools at the time was the EAD Cookbook, which provides a set of templates, stylesheets, and guidelines for creating finding aids. Wisser found a disparity in the kinds of tools institutions used: archivists at smaller archives tended to rely upon the EAD Cookbook, while those at larger institutions often developed their own solutions. Some institutions were willing to share those solutions, with the caveat that they reflected local practices.


More recently, open source archival management systems such as Archon and AT and commercial solutions such as Cuadra STAR and MINISIS have offered other methods for creating archival description. The promise of such systems is that archivists no longer have to hand-code EAD, but can create it through entering information into database fields. Rather than keeping archival data in multiple systems, archivists can manage, search, and manipulate data through a single interface. However, such systems can also enforce a rigor that may challenge existing workflows, and importing legacy data into them can be difficult.


Below I briefly describe a range of archival software packages that support exporting or publishing EAD and MARC or are likely to do so soon. Since the focus of this report is archival management systems, only brief descriptions of more specialized EAD authoring and publishing tools are provided, and no information is offered about digital asset management systems, institutional repository software, integrated library systems, or digital collections software.14 Appendix 2 summarizes the features of archival management systems in brief, while Appendix 3 offers a detailed summary of these features. Appendix 4 presents summaries of my interviews with current users of several leading archival management systems.


EAD Authoring


According to a 2006 study by Chris Prom, archivists use a variety of tools to create descriptive records, favoring "simple" tools: "Eighty-two percent use word processors; 55%, library catalog software; 34% custom databases; 31% text or HTML editors; 22% XML editors, and 14% digital library software" (Prom 2008, 21). Archives using XML editors typically have a larger backlog (58% of the collection) than those using word processors (37%), leading Prom to suggest that "[a]t least some of our backlog problems seem attributable to the adoption of complex tools and methodologies" (2008, 22). However, these institutions may have had larger backlogs to begin with. Prom found a low adoption rate of MARC and EAD—access to only an average of 37 percent of collections is provided through MARC, 13 percent through EAD (2008, 23-24).


Often archives use a mix of methods to create finding aids. For instance, UC Berkeley converted legacy finding aids to EAD through a multifaceted approach, entering basic descriptive information into Web templates (http://www.cdlib.org/inside/projects/oac/toolkit/templates/) and employing WordPerfect to create the initial hierarchy for the collection. It then converted the WordPerfect files to EAD using macros and Perl scripts (http://www.cdlib.org/inside/projects/oac/toolkit/). XML editors were primarily used as "reference tool[s]," since "[i]t is far faster to programmatically convert text to EAD in broad strokes than to apply the copy and paste method required when using these editors" (Digital Publishing Group, UC Berkeley Library, n.d.). Likewise, the University of Chicago uses Web forms to create the front matter for finding aids; archivists write inventories using Word, and then a script is run to generate EAD. Post-processing is done using an XML editor such as Oxygen. According to archivists at the University of Chicago, such an approach "provides the archivist with a lot of flexibility."


Among the particular technologies used to create EAD are the following:


A. XML/text editors

XML editors enable archivists to see the entire hierarchy of a finding aid and engage in the intellectual activity of marking up an archival collection.15 As one archivist noted, "The act of writing a finding aid is something where you need to be able to view contents as you write series description. Creating finding aids is not data entry, but an intelligent process. I think that encoding EAD helps you to write finding aids, to understand the texture of a document." However, relying solely on XML editors to generate finding aids can be inefficient. According to "informal studies" at the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign, "a skilled worker took 20 hours to encode a 100-page finding aid, using standard XML markup tools, on top of the time needed to actually write the collection description and develop a general box listing of its content" (Prom et al. 2007, 159).


XML and customizable text editors include:

  1. XMetaL:16 Extensible, collaborative commercial software for authoring XML. To provide a more user-friendly interface for creating and editing finding aids, Yale University has developed a finding aids authoring tool layered over XMetaL. Yale's FACT tool customizes XMetaL to provide a "word processing" view of finding aids for staff who didn't want to work with the XML elements. Archives such as the University of Minnesota have developed tips for using XMetaL to author EAD.17
  2. Oxygen:18 Easy-to-use, commercial "cross platform XML editor providing the tools for XML authoring, XML conversion, XML Schema, DTD, Relax NG and Schematron development, XPath, XSLT," etc. Several archives and consortia, including Northwest Digital Archives, provide documentation for using Oxygen to create EAD.19
  3. NoteTab: A free or inexpensive text editor. Several projects, including NC Echo,20 Virginia Heritage,21 and the EAD Cookbook,22 have created clipbook libraries for NoteTab that facilitate the creation of EAD. According to a recent report by the Florida Center for Library Automation (FCLA), "the existing, customizable NoteTab templates maintained by FCLA have been very helpful for many organizations wishing to create EAD-encoded finding aids" (Florida Center for Library Automation 2008).
  4. EAD Cookbook: The EAD Cookbook aims to make it easier for archives to create finding aids by providing authoring tools for Oxygen, XMetaL, and NoteTab. In addition, it offers a set of stylesheets for transforming XML finding aids into HTML and detailed guidance on creating and publishing EAD finding aids.
  5. MEX (Midosa-Editor in XML-Standards): Describes itself as "a set of tools for everyday description work in archival institutions including the production of online finding aids with digitized images from the archival records."23 An open source application developed by the Federal Archives of Germany with support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, MEX enables archivists to create, import, and edit EAD finding aids; attach digital objects; examine an entire XML file or a single element; create online presentations of finding aids; and provide both search and structured browsing. It is a plug-in to Eclipse, an open source Java development platform.


B. Word processing templates

A number of archives use or have used word processing software such as Microsoft Word, WordPerfect, or Open Office to create preliminary finding aids. In some cases, organizations have created templates that make it easy to enter standard archival information. Often they also use macros or scripts to aid in the conversion to EAD. For example, Yale has experimented with Open Office as tool for EAD creation (Yale University Library 2003), the Bentley Library at the University of Michigan has developed macros to convert Word files to EAD XML (Bentley Historical Library, n. d.), and the Utah State Archives used WordPerfect to create container lists (Utah State Archives 2002). Similarly, the Utah State Archives produces container lists using Excel and MailMerge (Perkes 2008).


C. Forms

By using forms to produce finding aids, archives can speed their creation and ensure greater consistency. Forms can be Web based or desktop based:

  • Berkeley Web Template: CGI script is a customizable cgi-driven Web application "that generates a user-defined HTML form template and then generates markup using the values filled in by users. ... Output may be in the form of METS, TEI, EAD, XML or SGML, even HTML or PDF" (University of California, Berkeley 2005).
  • Online Archive of California: Makes available Web forms "for generating collection- through series-/subseries-level finding aids that are compliant with the OAC BPG EAD and EAD Version 2002. Encoders cut and paste segments of their non-EAD finding aids into the form. The form is then converted to a text file and saved as a XML EAD file."24
  • ArchivesHub: Provides a Web form for generating EAD 2002.25
  • EAD XForms: Justin Banks's EAD templates allow users to enter archival information into a form. The templates were built using Altova's StyleVision2006 and require an XML editor such as Altova Authentic2006 or Altova XMLSpy to implement.26
  • X-EAD: The University of Utah is developing form-based desktop software for authoring and editing EAD.27


EAD Validation

By validating EAD files, archives can ensure their adherence to standards and facilitate participation in union catalogs and regional repositories. Several online validation services are available, including the following:

  • Florida Center for Library Automation's Encoded Archival Description Validator and XSL Transformer: A Web page that was "created for museums, archives, libraries, historical societies, and similar agencies in Florida who create collection finding aids (guides) according to the Encoded Archival Description (EAD) standard, version 2002. The tools on this page permit EAD creators to a) validate (test) their EAD documents against the rules described in the EAD Document Type Definition maintained by the Library of Congress, b) generate a HTML version of their finding aid from the original EAD encoding, using a XSL stylesheet maintained for the ARCHIVES FLORIDA database, and c) derive Dublin Core metadata records from their original EAD documents."28
  • RLG EAD Report Card: "The first automated program for checking the quality of your EAD encoding."29


EAD Publishing

As several interviewees noted, publishing EAD finding aids online presents a real challenge, especially to smaller archives without much technical support. Finding aids can be converted to HTML and placed on a Web server or loaded into an XML-database/publishing system—operations that are beyond the capabilities of many archives. Alternatively, archives can upload the XML file, include a call-out to an XSLT stylesheet, and use the browser to transform XML to HTML. Some archives deposit their finding aids with a regional repository such as Online Archive of California (OAC), Texas Archival Resources Online (TARO), or North Carolina ECHO, and/or with an international repository such as OCLC's Archives Grid. Other archives have adopted XML publishing platforms that allow searching and presentation of finding aids, an approach that requires much more technical support but also provides greater control over data. These publishing platforms include:

  • PLEADE: "PLEADE is an open source search engine and browser for archival finding aids encoded in XML/EAD. Based on the SDX platform, it is a very flexible Web application."30
  • XTF: "The CDL eXtensible Text Framework (XTF) is a flexible indexing and query tool that supports searching across collections of heterogeneous data and presents results in a highly configurable manner."31 The California Digital Library uses XTF to enable search and display of its finding aids, text and image collections, and other scholarly projects.
  • Apache Cocoon: Archives and consortia such as Five College Archives & Manuscript Collections32 are using the open source XML publishing framework Cocoon to publish finding aids.
  • University of Chicago's Mark Logic XML Database: The University of Chicago is developing an XML publishing infrastructure built on MarkLogic33 a native XML database. MarkLogic, which is a commercial product, was selected because it is robust, scalable, and easy to use. MarkLogic uses XQuery, which supports a feature called "collection." Through the collection tag, different collections and archives can be defined, thus enabling the creation of a multi-institutional repository. Users can search the whole database or particular collections. The front end can be built on any platform and can be displayed in any way the archives want. The University of Chicago took this approach because their UNCAP project is multi-institutional and could be multiconsortial. Such an architecture will give participants the flexibility to create unique interfaces for different collections and projects. Chicago's code will be available to anyone who asks. Archives that want to use the software will need MarkLogic, but there is a free version for a limited number of CPUs that will be sufficient for small institutions.


II. Archival Management Systems

Archival management systems may be less flexible than EAD creation tools, and getting legacy data into these systems can be challenging. However, they offer a number of features that may lead to greater efficiency and sustainability, such as support for authority control, reduced redundancy of data, easy data entry interfaces, the ability to analyze archival data through the generation of reports, and Web-publishing capabilities. Both open source and commercial archival management systems are available.


A. Open Source


Note: According to an August 2009 email from Brad Westbrook, Archivists Toolkit and Archon will "integrate" with support from the Andrew Mellon Foundation.

  1. Archon (http://www.archon.org)

    Developed by archivists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Archon makes it easy for archives to publish their finding aids online. As its developers explain, "Archon automates many technical tasks, such as producing an EAD instance or a MARC record. Staff members do not need to learn technical coding and can concentrate on accomplishing archival work. Little or no training is needed to use the system, assuming the staff member or student worker has at least a passing familiarly with basic principles of archival arrangement and description" (Prom et al. 2007, 165). Archon, which is built on PHP 5 and MySQL, enables archivists to capture information about accessions, create and publish finding aids on-line, and export EAD and MARC. A digital library module supports presenting digital objects along with finding aids. A winner of the 2008 Mellon Awards for Technology Collaboration (MATC), Archon is easy to customize and provides support for authority control. Explaining the appeal of Archon, one archivist noted, "Archon is free and pretty easy to implement without much IT intervention. ... It gave us a quick and easy way to put collections up on online, let patrons search them, and see everything we had." Others caution, however, that importing existing finding aids into Archon can be difficult, given the variability of EAD.

  2. Archivists' Toolkit (AT) (http://www.archiviststoolkit.org/)

    Developed by a consortium including the University of California, San Diego Libraries, the New York University Libraries, and the Five Colleges, Inc., Libraries and supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, AT bills itself as "the first open source archival data management system to provide broad, integrated support for the management of archives." AT uses a Java desktop client and a database back-end (MySQL, MS SQL, or Oracle). Users report that AT makes it easier to produce finding aids and export EAD and MARC, generates useful reports, provides robust authority control, and offers good support for standards such as METS. Several archivists believe that AT will provide an integrated tool set for managing and describing archival information: "I like the promise of having a single database for collection management. You do the accession record, push a button, convert to a resource record, and export as EAD and MARC. It's not quite there yet, but moving in that direction." Another archivist noted that AT helps archives establish processing priorities by allowing them to mark and then find high-priority collections. In a presentation on AT, Georgia Tech Archives highlights several reasons for adopting it, including "developed by archivists," "promotes efficiency and standardization," "serves as master version of finding aid," "improves description workflow," and "decreases need for training in XML and encoding" (de Catanzaro, Thompson, and Woynowski 2007). However, archivists noted that it can be difficult to import existing finding aids and make AT accommodate existing workflows. AT does not yet provide Web-publishing capabilities.

  3. CollectiveAccess (http://www.CollectiveAccess.org)

    The recent recipient of a Mellon Collaborative Technology Grant, CollectiveAccess allows museums and archives to manage their collections and provide rich online access to them. CollectiveAccess is a Web-based tool built on PHP and my SQL, so it is cross-platform. According to its developer, Seth Kaufman, its chief advantages are that it


    Designed more as a collection management than archival management system, CollectiveAccess does not yet provide support for exporting EAD or MARC, although that is promised for a future release. One user commented, "It's so much easier than traditional collection management systems that I've worked with."

    • is free;
    • is customizable;
    • has a flexible data model that accommodates many types of collections and supports different data standards and controlled vocabularies;
    • provides robust support for multimedia, including images, audio, video, and text; is capable of automatic conversion of audio files to MP3 and video files to flash format; can zoom and pan images; and enables time-based cataloging of media files; and
    • has a Web-based structure that facilitates distributed cataloging and enables administrative users to enter metadata and search collections online.
  4. International Council on Archives-Access to Memory (ICA-AtoM) (http://www.ica-atom.org/)

    ICA-AToM is open source, Web-based archival description software that aims to make it easy for archives to provide online access to their archival holdings, adhere to ICA standards, and support multiple collection types (even multirepository implementations) through flexible, customizable software. According to project lead Peter Van Garderen, the impetus behind ICA-AToM was to expose hidden collections around the world by enabling small archives with limited resources to make available their collections online. ICA-AToM is designed to support aggregation of data from multiple institutions through OAI, IETF Atom Publishing Protocol (APP), and possibly other mechanisms. Developers are working on a pilot project with the Archives Association of British Columbia to build an aggregated union list portal. ICA-AToM aims to distinguish itself through its support for translation and internationalization, basis in ICA standards such as ISAD-G and ISAD-H, flexibility and customizability, and ease of installation and use. As a fully Web-based application, ICA-AToM can be accessed from anywhere with an Internet connection and can be hosted at a minimal cost. In the long term, the developers want ICA-AToM to become a platform to manage archival information, including creating digital repository interfaces to systems such as DSpace and Fedora through a plug-in architecture. They plan to build in Web 2.0 features such as user-contributed content, user tagging, and social networking.


    ICA-AToM is currently in beta testing. Version 1.2, due to be released in summer 2009, will provide support for accessioning, OAI harvesting, crosswalking to standards such as DACS, EAD import and export, and many other features. Although ICA-AToM is designed more in accordance with ICA standards than U.S. standards, Van Garderen indicated that someone could easily add support for standards such as DACS and EAD and that version 1.2 will support EAD/MARC data import and export. For ICA-AToM, then, standards such as EAD and EAC will be exchange formats, while ISAD standards will be the core data format.


    ICA-AToM is new, and many of its features have yet to be released. For this reason, it is difficult to evaluate this software. However, members of the archival community are excited about its potential. An archivist who recently saw a presentation on ICA-AToM observed that the project has "impressive people on the team" and that the project lead is a trained archivist. Development seems to be proceeding quickly: within a month, the developers added the capability of attaching digital objects and are working speedily on making ICA-AToM RAD compliant. A developer noted that "smart people" are behind ICA-AToM, but it is currently focused on archival description, so it might be limited for institutions that want fuller support for collection management and presentation.



  1. Cuadra STAR/Archives (http://www.cuadra.com/products/archives.html)

    Cuadra STAR/Archives offers a number of features for managing and describing archival collections, including creating accessions, tracking donors, creating finding aids, providing a Web interface to collections, and exporting EAD and MARC. Cuadra will host customers' data and provide assistance in importing existing data into the system.

  2. CALM (http://www.crxnet.com/page.asp?id=57)

    Calm for Archives, developed by DS, bills itself as "the leading archival solution in the UK." It has a client/server architecture and requires Windows. Calm allows significant user customization and enables linking to digital objects. It supports EAD and General International Standard Archival Description [ISAD (G)], and is compliant with International Standard Archival Authority Record for Corporate Bodies, Persons, and Families [ISAAR (CPF)], and National Council on Archives (NCA) name authority guidelines. It offers OAI support (with the provision of an additional module) and rich searching options. There is a CalmView Web server module (based on .NET technology) for Internet or intranet access.

  3. MINISIS M2A (http://www.minisisinc.com/index.php?page=m2a)

    MINISIS M2A was developed by MINISIS Inc. in collaboration with the Archives of Ontario in the 1990s. Since then, the precursor, ADD (archival descriptive database), has been enhanced to include more fields, more databases, more functionality, and more workflow and processing to become M2A as we know it today. M2A is flexible and customizable, and it supports standards such as EAD, ISAD(G), and RAD. Additional modules, such as client registration and space management, are available. MINISIS M2A is fully Web enabled and conforms to MARC, RAD, and EAD. MINISIS M2A can be expensive, but M2A Web, which is geared toward smaller archives, provides an inexpensive hosted solution for online creation and publishing of archival information.

  4. Adlib Archive 6.3.0 (http://www.adlibsoft.com/)

    Developed by a company based in the Netherlands, Adlib Archive 6.3.0 offers support for international standards such as ISAD(G) and ISAAR(CPF). Adlib uses a Windows-based desktop client and a database backend. Web publishing of archival information is available through the purchase of the Adlib Internet Server, which is built on Microsoft technologies. Adlib Archive provides support for OAI.

  5. Past Perfect 4.0 (http://www.museumsoftware.com/pastperfect4.htm)

    Past Perfect describes itself as "affordable, flexible and easy to use" collection management software. It provides support for a number of collection management tasks, such as accessions and deaccessions, loans and exhibits, fundraising, membership, and object-level cataloging. The application is PC based, but a Web-based catalog can be built with the purchase of the Past Perfect Online34 module, which can be hosted by Past Perfect or installed on a local server. Past Perfect does not currently provide support for EAD, but that is being considered for a future release.

  6. Eloquent Archive (http://www.eloquentsystems.com/products/archives.shtml)

    Eloquent Archives describes itself as "an integrated application including all the functions for archival description, accessioning/de-accessioning, controlling vocabulary, custodial management, research requests, tracking, and other workflow management." In addition to enabling archivists to manage and describe their collections, it provides support for tracking researchers and the usage of collections. Hosting for online access is available.

  7. Archeevo (http://www.keep.pt/produtos/archeevo/?lang=en)

    Archeevo is a state-of-the-art archival management software capable of handling millions of archival records and terabytes of digital assets. This software consists of 6 functional modules that meet the needs of the most experienced archival professional, i.e. records description, management of digital assets, online publication, conservation and restoration, intermediate archive, virtual reference room, administration and productivity management, and interoperable programmable interfaces.



14 For more information about metadata description tools, see Smith-Yoshimura and Cellentani 2007.

15 See ArchivesHub's Data Creation Web page for more on XML editors:  http://www.archiveshub.ac.uk/arch/dc.shtml

16 http://na.justsystems.com/content.php?page=xmetal

17 https://wiki.lib.umn.edu/Staff/FindingAidsInEAD

18 http://www.oxygenxml.com/

19 See http://orbiscascade.org/index/northwest-digital-archives-tools

20 See http://www.ncecho.org/ncead/tools/tools_home.htm

21 See http://www.lib.virginia.edu/small/vhp/admin.html

22 See http://www.archivists.org/saagroups/ead/ead2002cookbook.html

23 See http://mextoolset.wiki.sourceforge.net/ and http://www.bundesarchiv.de/daofind/en/

24 http://www.cdlib.org/inside/projects/oac/toolkit/

25 http://www.archiveshub.ac.uk/arch/dc.shtml#tools

26 http://www.archivists.org/saagroups/ead/tools.html

27 http://www.lib.utah.edu/digital/tools.php

28 http://good-ead.fcla.edu/

29 http://tinyurl.com/6qrzqb

30 http://www.pleade.org/en/index.html

31 http://www.cdlib.org/inside/projects/xtf/

32 http://asteria.fivecolleges.edu/about.html

33 http://www.marklogic.com/

34 http://www.pastperfect-online.com/

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