apeEAD - The use of EAD in Archives Portal Europe

The most important archival standard used by the Archives Portal Europe is Encoded Archival Description (EAD), an XML standard for encoding archival finding aids, maintained by the Technical Subcommittee for Encoded Archival Standards (TS-EAS) of the Society of American Archivists (SAA). You can find general information about EAD on the standard's homepage hosted by the Library of Congress.

Background on EAD in general

The development of the EAD standard began with a project initiated by the University of California, Berkeley Library in 1993, led by Daniel Pitti. The requirements for the encoding standard then included – and still include today – the following criteria:

  • ability to present extensive and interrelated descriptive information found in archival finding aids,
  • ability to preserve the hierarchical relationships existing between levels of description,
  • ability to represent descriptive information that is inherited by one hierarchical level from another,
  • ability to move within a hierarchical informational structure,
  • support for element-specific indexing and retrieval.

EAD is by now used world wide for data exchange between archival institutions and for Internet presentations of archival descriptive information. It is especially applied for trans-institutional and trans-national projects like the Archives Portal Europe.

The first version of EAD, v1.0, was published in 1998, the second version, EAD2002, was released in December 2002 and the work on the revision of EAD2002, which led to the current version, EAD3, was started in 2010 and finished in August 2015. Since the beginning of 2021, the TS-EAS of the SAA is preparing for another major revision of EAD with a new version being expected in 2024/2025.

The use of EAD in Archives Portal Europe

Archives Portal Europe uses the version EAD 2002 of the international standard. This is the version predominantly used by the Content Providers to Archives Portal Europe as their exchange format and the version that is supported in most of archival management softwares currently on the market. It also is the version that Archives Portal Europe has based its current conversion to the Europeana Data Model (EDM) on for exchange with Europeana.

In addition, Archives Portal Europe did run a trial for EAD3, the most current version of the standard, in 2017/2018 with a focus on "additional finding aids", which contain further information in relation to the records and record parts usually described in an EAD finding aid, f.i. in relation to events, persons, places, subjects, etc.. Often this information is available in a variety of formats: handwritten lists or indexes, card systems, different word processor, spreadsheet or database formats, etc., either created alongside the actual archival material itself or later on by archivists, researchers and/or volunteers.

The Working Group on Standards

Within the Archives Portal Europe Foundation (APEF), the non-profit organisation that took over the responsibility for Archives Portal Europe after the conclusion of the APEx project in October 2015, the Working Group on Standards (WGoS) is in charge of the maintenance and the further development of the Archives Portal Europe standards. Their work can be followed via GitHub and all changes to apeEAD since 2015 are documented in the apeEAD schema.

The WGoS has its own Twitter channel and can be contacted via email at standards@archivesportaleurope.net.

For content providers

Data preparation

Archives Portal Europe help guide

Please select amongst the relevant tips we can help with. If you still have questions, please do not hesitate to contact us, and we will be in touch as soon as possible.

Starting your search here will include all content available in Archives Portal Europe. Simply enter your keyword(s) and hit the search button. Wrap fixed expressions in quotation marks, e.g. “French Revolution”. Check the box to “Search each term separately” in case you are looking for documents containing at least one word, but not necessarily all keywords; this will also allow you to search for the same term in multiple languages at the same time (e.g. “French Revolution” “Révolution Française”). You can also use wildcards - find more about Research Tools here. If you would like to use more specific settings, try our Advanced search

The additional advanced search options give you the possibility to focus your search in:

  • archival documents (Search in archives),
  • names of person and organisations that created, worked with and maintained these documents (Search in names),
  • Institutions currently holding the documents (Search in institutions).

When searching with multiple terms at the same time, wrap fixed expressions in quotation marks (e.g. "French Revolution"), or check the box "Search each term separately" in case you are looking for either one term of the other. This will also allow you to search for the same term in multiple languages (e.g. "French Revolution" "Révolution française"). You can also choose one of the suggestions matching your search term once you start typing.

This will only show results that include documents that have been digitised and are available online

Use this option to search only one or more keywords, rather than all of them

Select where your search terms should appear specifically inside the archival description:

  • Title: search terms will appear in the title, or name, of the description
  • Content Summary: search terms will appear in the main description of the document or of the collection
  • Reference code: it is the identifier of the archival material as provided by the institution. Use this option if you know the exact reference code of the material you are looking for

You can filter results by selecting where your search terms appears specifically inside the archival description:

  • The name can be the full name of a person, family or organisation as well as only parts of it, e.g. only the last name.
  • The identifier is used internally by the institution or refers to (inter)national vocabularies such as the Virtual International Authority File (VIAF).
  • The place can be the place of birth (or foundation), the place of death (or closing), the place of work or any other place of importance.
  • The occupation is the profession or job of a person.
  • The mandate is a law, directive or charter that establishes and defines an organisation's powers, functions, responsibilities or sphere of activities.
  • The function is an activity, role, or purpose performed or manifested by a person, family or organisation.

You can filter results by selecting where your search terms appears specifically inside the description of the archive:

  • Name: search term appears in the name of the institution. It can be the full name of an archival institution or only parts of it.
  • Place: search term appears in the address or area of the institution. It can be the city or town, where the archival institution is located or any other place of importance (e.g. previous locations)

  • A finding aid is a structured description of archival materials per collection or fonds, up to item level.
  • A holdings guide is an overview of the collections and fonds of one archival institution.
  • A source guide is a topic-oriented overview of collections and fonds of one or several institutions.
    You can filter by one or more entity types:
  • A person (e.g. John Locke, or Jean Jaques Rousseau);
  • A family (e.g. Bonaparte, or Helgason);
  • A corporate body, i.e. the name of an institution, organisation, or company (e.g. Ministerie van Justitie, or Electro Mecánica Antonio Armentano)

Please note that this filter will only include institutions, for which a type has been provided as part of their descriptions:

  • A business archive holds the records of (often) commercial organisations.
  • A church or religious archive holds the records of church parishes or religious organisations, e.g. birth or death registers.
  • A county or local authority archive holds the records of the county's administrative bodies.
  • A media archive holds audiovisual or sound records, e.g. a film archive or the archive of a broadcasting company.
  • A municipal archive holds the records of a town or city administration.
  • A national archive holds the records of a country's administrative bodies, i.e. from ministries and other public bodies, sometimes also private papers of former ministers, chancellors, or presidents.
  • A private person or family archive holds the records forming the legacy of a prominent person or family.
  • A regional archive holds the records of a region's administrative bodies.
  • A specialised governmental archive holds records of public bodies, often operating on a national level, that are not part of the national archives' holdings.
  • A specialised non-governmental archive or archive of another cultural heritage institution hold collections from various cultural heritage institutions, eg. museum archives, libraries archives, etc
  • A university archive or archive of another research organisation holds the records pertaining to the administration of the according educational or research body.
  • Political parties, popular/labour movements and other non-governmental organisations, associations, agencies and foundations hold the archival collections of these institutions, outside of governmental records and outside of business archives (e.g., NGOs)

Enter a start and/or end date in the format DD-MM-YYYY, i.e. 01-01-1900 for 1 January 1900. This will allow you to focus your search on a specific period of time. You can use the calendar function or type directly in the text field. The checkbox "Exact date search" concentrates the search on one specific date.

Check "View in context" to view the results in the hierarchical structure of archives.

  • Choose "List view" to view the results in a simple list, ordered according to relevance or date
  • Choose "Context view" to view the results in the hierarchical structure of the holding archives.

For more details see Research Tools

Please sign in to save your searches.

A holdings guide is an overview of the collections and fonds of one archival institution.

A finding aid is a structured description of archival materials per collection or fonds up to item level.

You can filter results by selecting one or more countries of interest. You can also combine this filter with other filters. Your filter selection will appear above. Click "Clear filters" to see all results matching your initial search request again.

You can filter results by one or more holding archival institutions. You can also combine this filter with other filters. Your filter selection will appear above. Click "Clear filters" to see all results matching your initial search request again.

You can select to view results from a specific Finding Aid, i.e., a structured description of archival materials per collection or fonds up to item level. You can also combine this filter with other filters. Your filter selection will appear above. Click "Clear filters" to see all results matching your initial search request again.

You can filter by type of descriptive document:

  • "Holdings Guide": an overview of the collections and fonds of one archival institution.
  • "Source guide": a topic-oriented overview of collections and fonds of one or several institutions. a description of the archival collections available. Similar to Holdings guides
  • "Finding aid" provides more detailed descriptions of the archival materials of specific collections or fonds

You can also combine this filter with other filters. Your filter selection will appear above. Click "Clear filters" to see all results matching your initial search request again.

You can filter results by selecting "Fonds description" for a general overview or "Other descriptions" for item level. You can also combine this filter with other filters. Your filter selection will appear above. Click "Clear filters" to see all results matching your initial search request again.

You can filter results by selecting only those containing digital objects, i.e. the link to the digitised version of the archival material you are looking for. You can also combine this filter with other filters. Your filter selection will appear above. Click "Clear filters" to see all results matching your initial search request again.

You can filter results by type of digital object you are interested in:

  • Text: most documental material, such as administrative records, letters, manuscripts etc.
  • Image: includes photographs, posters, maps.
  • Sound: sound recording with no images
  • Video: moving images with or without sound
  • Unspecified: indicates that the holding institution has not specified the type of digital object
  • 3D: 3-d digital objects

You can also combine this filter with other filters. Your filter selection will appear above. Click "Clear filters" to see all results matching your initial search request again.

You can filter results based on the date of creation of the archival material (which may differ from the time period you are interested in - e.g., philosophers from the Enlightenment period reflecting on classic thinkers)

  • Full dates includes normalised date information available for date-based searches. It is recommended to combine this selection with the filters "Start timespan" and "End timespan" for more details.
  • Only descriptive dates provides the date information in human-readable format.
  • No date either includes documents where the creation date is unknown, or where date information is not in a machine-readable format

Please note that not all documents contain a machine-readable date. More information here

You can filter results based on the date of creation of the archival material (which may differ from the time period you are interested in - e.g., philosophers from the Enlightenment period reflecting on classic thinkers). This filter will only include materials with "Full dates", i.e. those that include date information available for date-based searches. You can either search for a specific date of interest or focus step by step on the time span of a century, decade, year or month. When searching for a specific date, enter the date in the format DD-MM-YYYY, i.e. 01/01/1900 for 1 January 1900, via the calendar function or by typing directly in the text field.
This filter concentrates on the earliest dates mentioned in the materials.

You can filter results based on the date of creation of the archival material (which may differ from the time period you are interested in - e.g., philosophers from the Enlightenment period reflecting on classic thinkers). This filter will only include materials with "Full dates", i.e. those that include date information available for date-based searches. You can either search for a specific date of interest or focus step by step on the time span of a century, decade, year or month. When searching for a specific date, enter the date in the format DD-MM-YYYY, i.e. 01/01/1900 for 1 January 1900, via the calendar function or by typing directly in the text field.
This filter concentrates on the latest dates mentioned in the materials.

You can filter results based on the language in which the material is written. Please note that this filter will only include materials where specific language information has been provided by the institution and is therefore in a machine-readable format. You can also combine this filter with other filters. Your selection will then be displayed above the search results (see "Search filters"). Clicking "Clear filters" will remove your selection and you will see all results matching your initial search request again.



You can filter results by selecting one or more topics of interest. Please note that this filter will only include materials where the topic has been assigned and is therefore in a machine-readable format. Read how to assign a topic to documents on the Topics page. You can also combine this filter with other filters. Your selection will then be displayed above the search results (see "Search filters"). Clicking "Clear filters" will remove your selection and you will see all results matching your initial search request again.



You can filter results by selecting where your search terms appears specifically inside the archival description:

  • The name can be the full name of a person, family or organisation as well as only parts of it, e.g. only the last name.
  • The identifier is used internally by the institution or refers to (inter)national vocabularies such as the Virtual International Authority File (VIAF).
  • The place can be the place of birth (or foundation), the place of death (or closing), the place of work or any other place of importance.
  • The occupation is the profession or job of a person
  • The mandate is a law, directive or charter that establishes and defines an organisation's powers, functions, responsibilities or sphere of activities.
  • The function is an activity, role, or purpose performed or manifested by a person, family or organisation

You can also combine this filter with other filters. Your selection will then be displayed above the search results (see "Search filters"). Clicking "Clear filters" will remove your selection and you will see all results matching your initial search request again.

You can filter results by type of entities:

  • Person (e.g., John Locke or Jean Jaques Rousseau)
  • Family (e.g., the family Bonaparte)
  • Corporate body (an institution, organisation, or company, e.g. the "Ministerie van Justitie")
You can also combine this filter with other filters. Your selection will then be displayed above the search results (see "Search filters"). Clicking "Clear filters" will remove your selection and you will see all results matching your initial search request again.

You can filter results based on the language in which the material is written. Please note that this filter will only include materials where specific language information has been provided by the institution and is therefore in a machine-readable format. You can also combine this filter with other filters. Your selection will then be displayed above the search results (see "Search filters"). Clicking "Clear filters" will remove your selection and you will see all results matching your initial search request again.

You can filter results based on the type of holding institution. Please note that this filter will only include institutions, for which a type has been provided as part of their descriptions.

  • A business archive holds the records of (often) commercial organisations.
  • A church or religious archive holds the records of church parishes or religious organisations, e.g. birth or death registers.
  • A county or local authority archive holds the records of the county's administrative bodies.
  • A media archive holds audiovisual or sound records, e.g. a film archive or the archive of a broadcasting company.
  • A municipal archive holds the records of a town or city administration.
  • A national archive holds the records of a country's administrative bodies, i.e. from ministries and other public bodies, sometimes also private papers of former ministers, chancellors, or presidents.
  • A private person or family archive holds the records forming the legacy of a prominent person or family.
  • A regional archive holds the records of a region's administrative bodies.
  • A specialised governmental archive holds records of public bodies, often operating on a national level, that are not part of the national archives' holdings.
  • A specialised non-governmental archive or archive of another cultural heritage institution hold collections from various cultural heritage institutions, eg. museum archives, libraries archives, etc
  • A university archive or archive of another research organisation holds the records pertaining to the administration of the according educational or research body.
  • Political parties, popular/labour movements and other non-governmental organisations, associations, agencies and foundations hold the archival collections of these institutions, outside of governmental records and outside of business archives (e.g., NGOs)

Write your message in your own language and use this drop-down menu to have your message translated into English or in the language of the institution for a swifter response. By checking this box and selecting a language you will send your original message along with the translated version

What kind of suggestion would you like to make?

  • Assign to topic: assign this record to one of our Topics. Topics are created following the Unesco Thesaurus
  • Suggest translation: If you have translated this archival description or the documents themselves, please send it to us as a .doc or .pdf file
  • Connect to another resource: If this object relates to another resource in Archives Portal Europe, or anywhere else on the web (e.g., an article on Wikipedia), you can suggest it to be linked to this resource
  • Other: If you have any other relevant material, such as a transcription of the document, please upload it and let us know here

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This object is made available under the terms of the Creative Commons - Attribution, ShareAlike (BY-SA) licence. You can copy, redistribute, remix, tweak and build upon the licensed object, even for commercial purposes, as long as you attribute the rights holder as described in the licence, and you license your adaptations of the object under the same terms.

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This object is made available under the terms of the Creative Commons - Attribution, Non-Commercial, No Derivates (BY-NC-ND) licence. You can copy and redistribute the object for non-commercial use only, as long as no alteration is made to the object and as long as you attribute the rights holder as described in the licence.

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