In order to present information from different archival institutions in the Archives Portal Europe as consistent as possible, the project consortium has developed tools to enable the participating institutions to prepare the data they intend to display in this central online environment. These tools can be used via the backend of the central portal installation, to which all current partners have a personalised login, but standalone versions of these tools also are available to prepare the data locally. These standalone applications together with their corresponding manuals can be downloaded below. The tools will be further enhanced to better meet the needs of their users, therefore feedback is welcome to be sent via the contact form.
Locally different, centrally joint
The archives domain has long understood and appreciated the value of standardisation: the first international standard archival description, ISAD(G), was born in 1994, and has since been adopted by many archival institutions. The EAD format (Encoded Archival Description), which followed in 1998, has been equally successful as a useful method for on-line archival descriptions. Nevertheless the flexibility that allows EAD to fit to each national or local archival institution's needs and practises has also been a basis for heterogeneity within the boundaries of the standard. Hence, the variety of modes of production, of indexing and of display, when using EAD.
The main goal of the Archives Portal Europe is to meet users' expectations by providing seamless access to various archival resources held throughout Europe. To achieve this, the project team developed a common European EAD-XML schema, that will act as a pivotal format additionally enabling the Archives Portal Europe to deliver standardised data to Europeana.
The principle is simple: each partner will convert his/her data into this common format before integrating them in the portal, using the specific tool downloadable here. The realisation of this conversion and validation tool is based on the existing data provided by the partners, which is already structured in "local" EAD or drawn from databases etc compliant with ISAD(G).
The tool thus relies on international standards and has developed a standard usable by all. Additional to EAD and ISAD(G), the standards EAC-CPF (Encoded Archival Context - Corporate Bodies, Persons, Families) based on ISAAR-CPF (International Standard Archival Authority Record for Corporate Bodies, Persons and Families) to describe the records creators as well as EAG (Encoded Archival Guide) and ISDIAH (International Standard for Describing Institutions with Archival Holdings) to describe the archival institutions themselves are also taken into account.
In preparation for Europeana
The project not only aims to build the Archives Portal Europe, but also cooperates with Europeana, to make archival material searchable and findable within its cross-domain approach of presenting cultural heritage objects from libraries, archives, museums, and audio-visual collections online. Therefore the tool has been extended to also transform finding aids in the EAD format as it has been defined for the use within the Archives Portal Europe into records on digitised archival units encoded in the current Europeana metadata format. In further development this will be adapted to fully support the Europeana Data Model (EDM), which will be used in future Europeana portal releases.
To cope with the object-oriented approach of Europeana in comparison with the hierarchically structured, process-oriented approach of EAD the tool offers different possibilities to inherit information from higher description levels within the archival finding aids to the lower levels of its components.
Furthermore the tool prepares all steps needed later on to link from the presentations of the described archival units to their digital representations at the content providers' websites.
Before providing the transformed data to Europeana, the user can check its future display using the tool's preview function, copying the Europeana HTML display offline. In this way, the content provider retains full control over the transformation process, until he is satisfied with the result.