The Archives Portal Europe is one of the main milestones achieved by the participants of the APEx project supported by the European Commission in the ICT PSP programme. The project's consortium currently consists of 28 national archives and national archives administrations, all of which are already represented within the Archives Portal Europe with parts of their archival material available to search online, as well as with additional information on the institutions themselves. Feedback and comments are welcome and can be sent via the contact form. Those interested in more background information or in the possibility to participate in the project may refer directly to the project's website at: apex-project.eu.
Joint access to European archives
Borders between European countries have changed often during the course of history. States have merged and separated and it is these changing patterns that form the basis for a common ground as well as for differences in their development. It is this tension between their shared history and diversity that makes their respective histories even more interesting. By collating archival material that has been created during these historical and political evolutions, the Archives Portal Europe aims to provide the opportunity to compare national and regional developments and to understand their uniqueness while simultaneously placing them within the larger European context.
The portal will help visitors not only to dig deeper into their own fields of interest, but also to discover new sources by giving an overview of the jigsaw puzzle of archival holdings across Europe in all their diversity.
Combined search facilities
Within the Archives Portal Europe, the Advanced Search section allows combined searches across national and regional materials. In addition to a simple full text search for content that can be precisely defined, the portal offers an advanced search option concentrating on certain aspects of the material such as the dates of creation and use. Furthermore, a navigated search allows users to browse through the archival material and thereby detect and explore contents of which they might not otherwise have been aware.
Users can avail of the three search options (simple full text search, advanced search and navigated search) in combination or separately, depending on their research needs.
Users have the same flexibility with regard to the presentation of search results which can be displayed according to the hierarchical structure of the archival material itself or as a summarised list of hits. Both options display the same search results and lead to more detailed descriptions of the corresponding archival units within the context of the finding aids.
Presentation of archival content
Finding aids can be consulted by following the navigated search approach within the Advanced Search section. This starts at the level of the countries and archival institutions themselves, represented by their holdings guides that provide an overview of the fonds and collections maintained by one archival institution.
From there the finding aids are accessible as more detailed, hierarchically structured descriptions of the archival material including links to digitisations at the institutions' own websites.
The navigated search provides access to the constituent finding aid and allows the user to select and collect certain finding aids of interest for an overall search afterwards.
Contact details and services
When archival material of interest for one's research has been identified and it comes to planning a visit on-site to consult the original material, the Directory section of the Archives Portal Europe - containing contact details and services offered by the different institutions - can be consulted. The directory not only includes those institutions already presenting their archival material in the Archives Portal Europe, but also other institutions from the participating countries whose content is not yet available in the portal.
The central and common data management and presentation of archival contents within the Archives Portal Europe are prepared via (de)centralised data processing. The participating institutions can decide themselves if they would like to use the tools for data preparation (ie conversion to and validation against the commonly used data formats) locally as desktop applications or as part of the central portal application, the dashboard. The tools have been developed - and will evolve further - in close cooperation with the project's partners, to whom they have already been distributed. The tools and the corresponding manuals can also be downloaded via the Tools section.
International archival standards form the basis for data processing; finding aids and holdings guides are encoded according to EAD (Encoded Archival Description), while the descriptions of the archival institutions comply with EAG (Encoded Archival Guide). As the Archives Portal Europe expands in future, descriptions of the corporate bodies, persons, and families who created the archival material, will be added in compliance with EAC-CPF (Encoded Archival Context - Corporate Bodies, Persons, Families).
Furthermore, the common use of EAD facilitates interoperability with Europeana, making it possible for the participating institutions to deliver their content, if desired, to Europeana via the central tools as provided by the Archives Portal Europe.