What is EAD?

Encoded Archival Description is a standard for encoding archival finding aids or guides to primary source materials.

EAD is based on the multi-level description of finding aids and collections used by archival repositories. This may include a general description of all materials, a description of series or groups, and a description of files or items. Encoding is based on, and seeks to reflect, the content and structure of the original document.

To the right is an example of a finding aid for the Frank Cather Postcard Collection.

EAD Example

Basic Tags of EAD

Key Encoding Concepts

EAD makes use of a tag structure that identifies the components of a document. The tag structure is based on a combination of elements and attributes.

Elements are contained within start and end tags generic to a piece of information

Attributes modify or clarify information within elements and provide more specific information

EAD Required Tags

EAD was developed to allow a great deal of flexibility in the encoding of a document. There are only a few required tags:

  • <EAD>
  • <EADHEADER>
  • <EADID>
  • <FILEDESC>
  • <TITLESTMT>
  • <TITLEPROPER>
  • <ARCHDESC> LEVEL attribute
  • <DID>
  • <DSC> TYPE attribute

What Does EAD Do?

EAD tags describe the characteristics of archival materials.

EAD makes use of a tag structure that identifies the components of a document. Each component or part is identified, and noted through the encoding. Because EAD is an application of XML, EAD utilizes the concepts of tags, elements, and attributes for encoding text.

How Does EAD Work?

EAD is based on the multi-level description of finding aids and collections used by archival repositories. Finding aids may include a general description of all materials, a description of series or groups, and a description of files or items. EAD encoding is based on, and seeks to reflect, the content and structures of archival finding aids.

Encoding Using EAD

Basic Steps

Mark Up or Encoding

First, mark up or encode a document using the tag structure outlined within the EAD Document Type Definition. A Tag Library is available for assistance with the mark up of documents. Software that allows encoding in XML can be used to create the encoded document. Such software includes Xmetal, Epic Editor and NoteTab Light. NoteTab light is available in a free version that works very well with EAD projects. Since it is free, NoteTab Light is the application used most often by the UNL Libraries.

Validate the Document and EAD Markup

The markup must be valid for the information to display, and it must be "checked" against the set of rules outlined in the Document Definition Type (DTD). This process is called "parsing" or "validating".

Presentation

The presentation, or final display, of an encoded document requires the use of a style sheet or program that converts an EAD document into HTML, or into a text file, or a word-processing file, and so on. In this way, a single encoded document that can be displayed in many different ways, for different audiences.

Special Characters

Special characters may be represented by using a character entity file, which is a feature of text encoding that permits encoders to display special characters and symbols. Example:

  • À is represented with character entity &#192;
  • ^ is represented with character entity &#94;