How I Introduced Myself to EAD and Archivists’ Toolkit

The contents of this post relate to EAD 2002.

This was actually the topic of a paper I co-wrote for a student session at Fall 2012’s MARAC conference. Ever since then, I’ve been wanting to rewrite it as a simple, linked how-to blog post. Because other people have asked me where to get started and I’d like to show how it’s not actually too hard.

Step 1) Install Archivists’ Toolkit on your computer

I’ve already written up instructions for one way to set up Archivists’ Toolkit with a local database on your computer. You can also install the software and simply connect to the Archivists’ Toolkit sandbox database which they host and run.

Step 2) Find an EAD finding aid and import it into Archivists’ Toolkit

This is where you have it easier than I did. I was part of a group project that directly approached UMD’s manager of digital collections and asked her for an EAD finding aid to work with. You can just use one of the sample EAD finding aids I’m hosting on the site. And if you want some variety, the archivist from Syracuse also shared the location of all their EAD files.

For easiest import, I would suggest using the Miriam Butterworth and Natalie Babbit papers, which don’t make references to any files local to the repository.

If you use another file and get an error regarding not being able to find the EAD 2002 DTD (because the repository had linked to a local version), open the file in an editor and change the link from whatever their URL ending in ead.dtd was to:

Then import. If you then get a import log message that any mandatory field is missing and the record is invalid, just know that it’ll require you to fill those in before you can use the record in Archivists’ Toolkit. In the Berliner family papers, you’ll need to fill in an extent type and number. Just fill in something like 2 linear feet and voila you can view the rest.

I’ll recommend against using the Syracuse ones for this stage, because some local practices which are great for handling a whole system are a problem if you don’t have those files available. However, they’re quite useful on the whole for viewing later on. Just be aware that phrases like &su_name; are short-codes which pull in all the repository’s data so that people don’t have to type it every time.

Step 3) Open the EAD file in an XML-friendly reader

This doesn’t have to be an XML reader, per-se, just something like Notepad ++ (Windows), which highlights the syntax and has a word wrap function (under View in Notepad++) for easier reading. You can also view all but the Helen Lyman papers (which are in a very large file) on EADiva in a syntax-highlighting XML layout.

Step 4) Compare, compare, compare

Look how the record displays in Archivists’ Toolkit. Find the same fields in the EAD file. Look at the structure, where things show up. Look up any questions about elements, what they mean, what their attributes mean, etc, on EADiva. Remember, the syntax here is quite easy: Bam, you’re at the page.

Bonus step

View a finding aid’s display on a repository’s website. Any finding aid. Open Archivists’ Toolkit. Copy data from the finding aid, like title, date, etc. into the fields you think are right for it in Archivists’ Toolkit. See what happens when you export the file.

Post-Post Script

You can also import files into ArchivesSpace’s current beta and see how they look on there too. Or you can try the bonus step using the ArchivesSpace back-end vs. Archivists’ Toolkit, just to stretch your wings. I think it’s a good idea to work with both, since it’ll be a few years before many repositories transfer from AT to AS.

This was my method, except that EADiva didn’t yet exist and I spent my hours instead pouring over questions on the Library of Congress’s EAD tag library. If you taught yourself EAD, how did you do it? Was your method similar?

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