Adding Archival Finding Aids to the Library Catalogue

Adding Archival Finding Aids to the Library Catalogue: Simple Crosswalk or Data Traffic Jam? 

Geoff Brown
Electronic Resources Librarian and Acting Head of Technical Services
Killam Library
Dalhousie University

Kathryn Harvey
Archives Specialist
University Archives and Special Collections
Killam Library
Dalhousie University


Dalhousie University Archives and Special Collections (DUASC) has been producing Encoded Archival Description (EAD) finding aids to describe its archival collections since 2003. The EAD descriptions started as a way to convert the collection of print and electronic (Microsoft Word and WordPerfect) finding aids into a stable, software neutral format. As the collection of finding aids grew, it became apparent that we needed a way to search these documents beyond what was possible via a basic browse on the DUASC website. As a result, we embarked on a systematic crosswalk of the EAD finding aids into MARC 21 format for inclusion in the Novanet library catalogue. This has facilitated searching and discovery of the materials by a much broader audience of Dalhousie University Library users as well as users from all of the other Novanet member libraries in Nova Scotia and the general public. This article describes the primary motivation for the project and the technical aspects of converting the EAD finding aids into MARC 21 format for inclusion in the Novanet catalogue.

Keywords: Information retrieval, data crosswalks, document markup languages, standards, descriptive cataloguing, archives

A Reason to Innovate

Although libraries and archives have very different traditions for describing, housing and providing access to their collections, the ongoing physical cohabitation of the DUASC within the Killam Library at Dalhousie University has clearly influenced the development of this project. Like many other university archives, DUASC is located in the main library and falls within the administrative structure of the libraries. The physical location of the archives, combined with the fact that there was no keyword searchable catalogue of its collections has resulted in a relatively low profile for this world class collection of materials that, in fact, has assumed the role of the primary cultural archives for the province of Nova Scotia.

In addition to outreach work undertaken by DUASC to improve the visibility of its holdings, DUASC recognized in 2005 that it needed to take a three-pronged approach to make its holdings known. The first of these involved making its finding aids—in both HTML and XML formats—available on its website. These could be identified by search engines and thus appear in Google, Yahoo!, and Altavista searches. This strategy will bring in those people who might not otherwise consider searching for information in archives. The second approach involved including our fonds-level descriptions1 in ArchWay, Nova Scotia’s union database of archival descriptions. ArchWay is regularly uploaded to Canada’s nationwide archival database, Archives Canada; thus, our holdings are visible to those who use these databases specifically searching for archival records—perhaps a small target audience, but an important one nonetheless. The final target group we wanted to reach were those—mostly university-based researchers (faculty and students)—whose primary method of locating information is in a library catalogue. Thus, we began exploring how the Encoded Archival Description (EAD) files we were creating could be converted for inclusion in yet another searchable database that would help us reach a third audience.

Over the last five to ten years, a small number of archivists recognized the value of, as Steven L. Hensen2 puts it, “integrating archival material with the rest of the bibliographic universe" (78) and not summarily discounting library catalogues as an unacceptable method of enhancing resource discovery simply because such systems are manifestly unable to provide the required hierarchical multi-level structure of finding aids. MARC 21 records can refer to electronic finding aids as easily as they can to an electronic database or a book on a shelf. Furthermore, they allow the creation of hyperlinks to electronic resources—including EAD-formatted finding aids on the Internet (Hensen 79).

The innovative aspect of our project was the manner in which we moved our descriptions into the catalogue and used the catalogue as an access point to the much richer EAD descriptions created by the archives.

Archival Finding Aids

Although many university and institutional archives are located within the library, the terminology of archives might be unfamiliar to people from the library world. A finding aid is essentially a lengthy bibliographic cataloguing record. The finding aid provides a very rich description of both the content, intellectual organization and physical location of materials in an archival fonds (also sometimes referred to as a collection). Individual fonds might range in size from a single file folder to many linear metres of documents. The corresponding finding aid can range in size from a single page to hundreds of pages. The twist that distinguishes finding aids from their bibliographic cousins is the hierarchical nature of the descriptions. Archival fonds consist of smaller series that are often broken down into component sub-series, files and so on in a manner that we do not normally capture with a basic bibliographic record in a library catalogue.3 As a result, archival fonds are not always listed in library catalogues. However, from an end user perspective, their absence from such public databases essentially limits the use of these invaluable collections by the vast majority of library users.

Finding aids can be presented in a variety of formats. DUASC’s collection of finding aids varies from printed binders to Microsoft Word and WordPerfect files and, most recently, EAD files. DUASC has been working for a number of years to convert all of their finding aids to EAD format. EAD is a document type definition (DTD) initially developed by Daniel Pitti and members of the Berkeley Project “to investigate the desirability and feasibility of developing a nonproprietary encoding standard for machine-readable finding aids such as inventories, registers, indexes, and other documents created by archives, libraries, museums, and manuscript repositories to support the use of their holdings” (Barry, Pitti, and Thibodeau, “Choosing an Encoding Standard” section).  EAD was created to deliver valid, well-formed XML versions of archival descriptions. The EAD DTD does not ensure that these descriptions comply with the Rules for Archival Description (RAD), the Canadian archival descriptive standard, or any of the several other descriptive standards used across the globe, such as the General International Standard Archival Description (or ISAD(G)) and Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS). Along the same lines, a valid MARC 21 or MARC 21 XML record would not necessarily comply with AACR2.  In fact the very existence of MARC 21 XML is evidence of the growing need for XML structures for metadata.  It is much easier for users of MARC 21 data to create applications capable of displaying, converting and transforming data once it is expressed as valid XML (MARC XML official website). 

In many ways, EAD is the archival equivalent of MARC 21 XML.  EAD is widely used in the archival community because it is an open standard that is capable of hierarchical descriptions that facilitate data sharing and stability over time (Chang 15).4 We wanted to put this data sharing concept to the test and develop a process to convert our EAD files into MARC 21 records, load these records into the OPAC (online public access catalogue) for search and discovery, and then use these MARC 21 records to point back to the original EAD finding aid for more detailed perusal by researchers.

Since the archives already had a substantial collection of EAD finding aids either already produced or in production, we had much of the labour intensive groundwork for the project already completed. Figure 1 shows a typical EAD finding aid converted using an XSL (Extensible Stylesheet Language) stylesheet, to html for browsing on DUASC’s website. The collection of approximately 210 of these finding aids was the starting point for the project.

Figure 1 - The EAD finding aid displayed in a web browser

Why convert our EAD to MARC 21?

MARC 21 is the data format used by most libraries in their OPACs.  As Carini points out, even though MARC 21 has not traditionally been a format favoured by archivists (19), it has been reluctantly used for some time by archives to promote their collections via local OPACs.  Our predecessors had never made the decision to include MARC 21 encoded archival descriptions in our local OPAC, so we turned over a number of ideas before we decided to pursue it.  We first considered the option of simply continuing to rely on internet search engines for discovery of our resources.  Finding aids presented on our website both as HTML and XML documents are able to be located via Internet search engines; however, not all researchers come to archives through the external search engines.  The next option we considered was to build an internal search engine of our own.  Many archives have chosen to go this route.  Unfortunately for us, developing a search engine solely for the finding aids would take time and programming expertise not currently available to DUASC.5 Thus, the lack of specificity available through current searching capabilities led to our decision to leverage existing expertise in our cataloguing department and the archives in order to convert the finding aids into a format that could be searched in the library catalogue.  Within a university setting, the library catalogue provides an important starting point for many faculty and student researchers, most of whom have only a faint (if any) awareness of the extent and variety of DUASC’s archival holdings. As a result, the inclusion of bibliographic records for our finding aids achieves two goals: it uses existing mechanisms to facilitate creator, title, subject, and keyword searches of archival holdings; and it also increases the profile of archival holdings, in particular amongst an academic population that might not normally consider archival resources.

With these objectives in mind, we turned our attention to the task of converting our EAD records to MARC 21 format. This sort of data crosswalk is precisely the kind of process that is supposed to be possible when you store your data in an XML format such as EAD.6 We anticipated challenges along the way but felt quite certain that we could put theory into practice and convert the growing collection of finding aids from EAD to MARC 21 for inclusion in the library catalogue.

Deciding on the right software to do the job

Our next challenge was to find an application that would automate the task at hand. There is no shortage of documentation on how to convert between EAD and MARC 21 but to make this a viable project in terms of volume and staff-time, we needed an application that would do the crosswalk for us. We did not have access to a programmer to write such a program, and we were not prepared to manually transcribe the data ourselves. Given these constraints, we quickly discovered that there were few options available. In fact, we found only a single Windows-based application that was capable of converting between MARC 21 and other data formats. MarcEdit is a freely available application developed by Terry Reese at Oregon State University. The application is capable of accomplishing a number of MARC 21 related functions but for our purposes, we were particularly interested in its ability to convert EAD formatted data into MARC 21.

The amount of time required to get through the initial installation of MarcEdit, find the “MARC Maker” option in the MARC Tools menu and execute a rough conversion of an EAD file on the DUASC website into a MARC 21 record was minimal. From start to finish, the first run through of this process probably took less than 30 minutes. The resulting MARC 21 record didn’t suit our needs but we were able to quickly load it in the catalogue and take a close look at the resulting file. Using the stock EADtoMARC21slimXML.xsl stylesheet that comes with MarcEdit, we produced a MARC 21 record that consisted of Leader, 008 (Control), 040 (Cataloguing Source), 245 (Title Statement), 300 (Physical Description), 505 (Formatted Contents Note), 506 (Restrictions on Access Note), 524 (Preferred Citation of Described Materials Note), 561(Ownership and Custodial History) and 856 (Electronic Location and Access) fields. It was messy but it was a start. The mess was not entirely the fault of the stylesheet that accompanies MARC 21Edit. When we originally produced our EAD records we were concerned primarily with producing EAD files that were valid, well-formed XML with a bare minimum of tagging and which displayed well via a web browser. In the early days, we did not anticipate transforming our records into MARC 21, and as a result we were missing some tags necessary for a seamless crosswalk.7

Rather than go back and edit all of our EAD files, we decided to modify the original EADtoMARC21slimXML stylesheet in MARC 21Edit and run the conversion off this sheet to produce a MARC 21 record that would have the core fields that we wanted. Before we did this, we had to decide what those fields would be and then figure out how to modify the stylesheet to produce them.

Fine tuning the conversion

Our first challenge was to decide on a core set of data within the source EAD document that would be transformed and brought into the resulting MARC 21 record. We wanted to end up with a MARC 21 record that conformed to local cataloguing practices and provided sufficient detail to facilitate discovery and location of the materials in DUASC. We ultimately decided to produce a MARC 21 bibliographic record that contained 1XX (Main Entry), 2XX (Title and Title Related fields), 3XX (Physical Description), 5XX (Notes), 6XX (Subject Access) and 85X (Holdings / Location) fields.  We also wanted the stylesheet to generate Leader, 008 (Control) and 040 (Cataloguing Source) MARC 21 fields. Since our catalogue has location information in a MARC 21 holdings record, we needed to place the URL in this record rather than the 856 (Electronic Location and Access) field of the bibliographic record. This was an added complication that we will describe further along in the paper but these were the broad strokes of what we wanted to accomplish.

The most significant change was made to compensate for the fact that we did not use an <origination> tag in our EAD files. To accommodate this, we altered the stylesheet to look for personal names, family names or corporate names in the <unittitle> tag of the collection level description in the EAD file and to convert those into a main entry field as appropriate. We also needed to get rid of the many 505 (Formatted Contents Note) MARC 21 fields being created by the container tags in the source EAD files (c02 and c03 EAD tags). We did not feel that it was necessary or desirable for the MARC 21 record to capture the physical container arrangement of the collections. Instead, we wished to retain the intellectual arrangement of the collection according to series, as captured by the c01(Series Level Container) tags. We edited the stylesheet to provide series titles and dates in the MARC 21 505 (Formatted Contents Note) field.  Another significant change was made to the stylesheet to generate a 545 MARC 21 field that contained a biographical or historical note from the collection level <bioghist> tag in the EAD file. The Archives places a lot of emphasis in this free text description, and it usually helps researchers by rounding out their understanding of the precise nature of a collection.

Figure 2 shows all of the customizations that we made to the original stylesheet and Figure 3 provides a table view of the specific EAD to MARC 21 crosswalk.8 For each row of the table in Figure 3 the EAD nesting tags are listed first, with the appropriate EAD tag in bold at the bottom.  The corresponding MARC 21 fields, indicators and subfield codes are shown in the right hand column.  Non-variable text generated by the stylesheet is noted in Figure 2.  The stylesheet was written in XSL and can be viewed and changed with a simple text editor such as Notepad. 


Figure 2 – Notes on our customization of the EAD / MARC 21 stylesheet

Table 1 – EAD to MARC 21 Crosswalk


MARC 21 Field, indicator and subfield

<archdesc >

100   01 |a

<archdesc >

245   10 |a

<archdesc >

260    ## |c

<archdesc >
    <physdesc >

300   ## |a


351   ## |a

<archdesc >

505   00 |t


520   #2 |a


544   1# |a


561   ## |a

<archdesc >

600   10 |a              

<archdesc >

610   20 |a              


856   42 |u

Going beyond the stylesheet

By using MARCEdit and a revised stylesheet we were able to save a considerable amount of time. While this was a major consideration it was not our only goal. We still needed to ensure that a quality MARC 21 record was going into the catalogue. Once we settled on an acceptable baseline result for the conversion, we converted all the finding aids to MARC 21 format for individual review. 

Our process starts by running the EAD finding aid through MarcEdit.  The resulting MARC 21 record is then loaded into our catalogue.  Next, we create a MARC 21 holdings record for the URL that was initially converted into the 856 (Electronic Location and Access) of the bibliographic record.  We do this to conform to the local policy within our union library catalogue that prohibits member institutions from placing location information in the bibliographic record.  We then check the 1XX (Main Entry) and 6XX (Subject Access) MARC 21 fields in each record to make sure that the form of names is correct and the 260 (Publication Information) to make sure there wasn’t any extraneous information after the collection dates.  For our final quality check we look for basic spelling and punctuation errors that might have been captured from the finding aid and ensure that the description matches the URL and the collection.

Positive results

Our overall goal was to promote and raise awareness of our impressive collection of archival materials within the community of people that use our union library catalogue. With the original collection of archival finding aids we paid very close attention to how our XML files were transformed and displayed in a common web browser (as shown in Figure 1). For this project we needed to have a coherent display of the MARC 21 record in the library catalogue. The screen capture in Figure 3 shows the full record view of one of our converted records. In addition to fulfilling our requirement of displaying well in the library catalogue, the records facilitate search and discovery of archival materials. From an archivist’s point of view, the MARC 21 record is not an ideal way to present the richness of information contained within a finding aid and would not be considered a satisfactory sole source of information about archival holdings. However, as a component of a larger resource discovery strategy having MARC records that point to the electronic version of the full finding aid has proven to be highly beneficial in pointing researchers to archival materials relevant to their inquiries.

MARC 21 records, such as the one below, give researchers ample information to make an informed decision whether or not to visit the archives in person to enquire about the collection or to further explore the electronic finding aid by following the Electronic Location link at the bottom of the record. The contents notes are very clearly displayed and outline the intellectual organization of the collection while the physical description (“Descr.”) field gives the searcher an indication of the physical extent of the material. If all of that wasn’t enough, the abstract provides a fairly succinct narrative that describes the general nature and contents of the collection.

Figure 3 - The final output to the library catalogue

Researchers can find the above record using a multitude of search strategies. In our Ex Libris Aleph catalogue the normal fields for title, author and subject are indexed and fully searchable. In the case of archival collections though, this does not provide a great breadth of search options since all of these fields will often be filled with versions of the same personal or corporate name. The real advantage then, is that the contents notes and abstract are also fully searchable. So in the example used in Figure 3, results are returned for keyword searches of “dalhousie university english department,” “student english papers,” or “short fiction,” and “Dalhousie.” This sort of keyword access to the collections has not really been possible before given that the development of standardization of archival description and of mechanisms for data sharing have come relatively later to the archival world than to the library world.

Future directions

In some cases, process is almost as important as outcome. This was certainly true for our data conversion project. With so many possible projects competing for staff time it is becoming vital that we involve staff in higher level quality control activities rather than mundane and repetitive tasks. This is the reason that we use computers in the first place. With this project, we employed software to reduce the amount of repetitive work, so that we could focus on ensuring the correct form for main entries, subject headings and general overall quality control. There were areas where we could have done more to decrease the amount of repetitive work though. One such area was in creating MARC 21 holdings files using the URL and collection numbers from the EAD finding aids. Our approach in this regard was a largely manual process that involved a lot of copying, pasting and transcription. We have since been experimenting with other approaches. In particular, we discovered a macro product called MacroExpress that we would like to use to automate the work involved in creating these MARC 21 holdings records.

Our experience with this EAD to MARC transformation project has also helped broaden our awareness of the rich possibilities of output formats for our EAD files. Not only can EAD files be displayed on the web in HTML format and transformed into MARC records for inclusion in OPACs, they can also be converted into PDF files and uploaded to union databases able to handle the EAD XML records. With the expanding number of options available, it becomes imperative that we shape our tagging to fit both the archives’ internal needs (i.e., complying with in-house publication requirements) and external opportunities such as inclusion in the library catalogue of MARC 21 records pointing to our finding aids.

A next step might be to undertake a systematic assessment of the success of our project.  Has the creation of these catalogue records really increased awareness and usage of our archival collections?  This is a legitimate research question.  At the moment we cannot answer this question and are satisfied with our own impression that increased exposure will lead to increased discovery and ultimately usage of the archival collections. We are, however, currently participating in a North American study9 which is developing survey instruments to collect information about university and college archives’ users, and one of the aspects which will be interesting for us in this study is how users eventually arrive at our finding aids—through the library catalogue or by other means.

Overall, this project was a success on many levels. From the outset we expected that XML would be a very portable and stable format to store our finding aid data and this has turned out to be the case. Our EAD to MARC 21 conversion project proved the value of starting with a rich, software independent data format and paring down the information as necessary to suit other needs and goals. Furthermore, our experience suggests that the possibilities of joint library and archives cataloguing projects are viable and reap benefits for both parties. In the end, everyone comes out ahead. Librarians and archivists can learn a lot about each others’ work through co-operation to push technological limits, and researchers who would not normally consider the relevance (or even existence) of archival materials benefit from the exposure to library catalogues’ reminders that such materials do exist. 

Works Cited

Barry, Randall K., Daniel V. Pitti, Sharon Gibbs Thibodeau. “Development of the Encoded Archival Description DTD.”  June 2006.  Library of Congress. 24 October 2007 <>.

Carini, Peter and Kelcy Shepherd.  “The MARC 21 Standard and Encoded Archival Description.”  Library Hi Tech. 22.1 (2004) : 18-27.

Chang, May. "An Electronic Finding Aid Using Extensible Markup Language (XML) and Encoded Archival Description (EAD)." Library Hi Tech. 18.1(2000) : 15-27.

Hensen, Steven L. "Archival Cataloging and the Internet: The Implications and Impact of EAD.”  Encoded Archival Description on the Internet.  Eds. Daniel Pitti and Wendy Duff.  New York: Haworth Information Press, 2001. 75-95.

“MARC XML: MARC 21 XML Schema Official Website.”  July 2006.  Library of Congress. 24 October 2007 <>.

Wisser, Katherine M. and Jennifer O’Brien Roper.  “Maximizing Metadata: Exploring the EAD-MARC Relationship.”  Library Resources and Technical Services. 47.2 (2003) : 71-76.

Appendix 1


Excerpt from original EAD record


   <eadheader audience="internal" langencoding="iso639-2b" dateencoding="iso8601" countryencoding="iso3166-1">
      <eadid countrycode="ca" url="">Will R. Bird, MS-2-367</eadid>
         <titlestmt audience="internal">
            <titleproper>A Guide to the Archives of Will R. Bird</titleproper>
            <author>Charles Erlichman and Kathryn Harvey</author>
            <publisher>Dalhousie University Archives</publisher>
               <addressline>5th Floor Killam Library,</addressline>
               <addressline>6225 University Ave.,</addressline>
               <addressline>Halifax, NS, Canada, B3H 4H8</addressline>
         <titleproper>The Archives of Will R. Bird: A Guide</titleproper>
         <publisher>Dalhousie University Archives</publisher>
         <num>Collection Number: MS-2-367</num>
         <author>Collection processed and finding aid written by Charles Erlichman, April 2003</author>
         <author>Finding aid revised and electronic version prepared by Kathryn Harvey, July 2003</author>
   <archdesc level="collection">
         <head>Collection Level Description</head>
         <unittitle label="Title:"><persname normal="Bird, Will R.">Will R. Bird</persname> fonds</unittitle>
         <unitdate type="inclusive" label="Dates:">1910-1973, bulk 1928-1950</unitdate>
         <physdesc label="Extent:">
            <extent>82 cm of textual records. -- 49 large format scrapbooks. -- 2 boxes of index cards. -- 10 volumes</extent>
         <physloc label="Location:">Dalhousie Archives, Aisle A-81</physloc>
         <head id="a1">Biographical Sketch</head>
         <p>William R. Bird was born in East Mapleton, N.S. on May 11, 1891. Born into poverty, he moved to the Canadian Prairies to help harvest crops as a teenager. In 1914, he enlisted...</p>
         <head id="a3">Custodial History</head>
         <p>The complete fonds of Dr. William R. Bird were acquired through purchase by the Dalhousie University Archives on May 23, 1979.</p>
         <head id="a5">Scope and Content</head>
         <p>The fonds includes correspondence covering the years 1962-1978; scrapbooks containing clippings, correspondence and photographs (1926-1973); manuscripts for a number of Bird's published and unpublished works-including novels, stories and articles (undated); hardcover novels, fiction and non-fiction published in magazines, journals and newspapers (1928-1975); and miscellaneous documents including reviews, articles about Bird and royalty information (1935-1976).</p>
         <head id="a6">Arrangement</head>
         <p>The records within each series are arranged chronologically unless otherwise noted.</p>
      <prefercite><head id="a10">Preferred Citation</head><p>[Identification of item], William R. Bird fonds, MS-2-367, Dalhousie University Archives and Special Collections, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.</p></prefercite><dsc type="combined">
         <head>Combined Series and File Level Descriptions</head>
         <c01 id="series1" level="series">
               <unittitle label="Series:">Correspondence</unittitle>
               <unitdate type="inclusive" label="Date:">1962-1967, n.d.</unitdate>
               <physdesc label="Extent:">
                  <extent>4 cm of textual records</extent>
               <head>Scope and Content</head>
               <p>This series contains correspondence collected by Bird. Correspondents include fans and contemporaries. Repeat correspondents include Clarke, Irwin and Co., the MacMillan Group publishing company, McGraw-Hill, University of Toronto Press, the Cumberland Publishing Company, and the Banff School of the Arts. Bird's natural order of organizing this correspondence (incoming and copies of outgoing mail stapled together) has been preserved. See also the Scrapbook Series for further correspondence.</p>


Post Conversion MARC 21 Record





00000npcaa2200217 a 4500






060526i19101973nsc                 eng d




|a Bird, Will R. |q (Will Richard), |d 1891-


|a William R. Bird fonds.


|c 1910-1973.


|a 82 cm of textual records. -- 49 large format scrapbooks. -- 2 boxes of index cards. -- 10 volumes.


|a Arrangement: The records within each series are arranged chronologically unless otherwise noted.


|t Correspondence, 1962-1967, n.d.


|t Scrapbooks, 1926-1973


|t Manuscripts, n.d.


|t Published Fiction, 1928-1969


|t Published Non-Fiction, 1927-1975


|t Miscellaneous Documents, 1935-1976


|a Access restrictions: All files are open


|a The fonds includes correspondence covering the years 1962-1978; scrapbooks containing clippings, correspondence and photographs (1926-1973); manuscripts for a number of Bird's published and unpublished works-including novels, stories and articles (undated); hardcover novels, fiction and non-fiction published in magazines, journals and newspapers (1928-1975); and miscellaneous documents including reviews, articles about Bird and royalty information (1935-1976)


|a William R. Bird was born in East Mapleton, N.S. on May 11, 1891. Born into poverty, he moved to the Canadian Prairies to help harvest crops as a teenager. In 1914, he enlisted in the Canadian Army and served in the trenches with the Canadian Expeditionary Forces (42nd Battalion, Black Watch of Canada) in France and Belgium until 1918. Upon demobilization in 1919, he returned to Cumberland County, N.S, where he married Ethel Sutton with whom he had two children, Stephen and Betty. After a failed general store venture in Southampton, he moved to Amherst with his family and worked at the Post Office. Winning a story-writing contest in the early 1920s and a love of writing prompted him by 1928 to try making his living by writing. Bird's stories were widely accepted by magazines such as Saturday Evening Post , Maritime Advocate , Toronto Star Weekly , Family Herald and Weekly Star and his first monograph, A Century at Chignecto , was published in 1928. During the 1930s, Bird lectured widely across Canada, and in 1933 he joined the staff of the recently established Nova Scotia Tourist Bureau. For the next thirty-three years, he worked in various capacities for the Nova Scotia government. In 1938, he and his family moved to Halifax where he served as Chairman of the Historic Sites and Monuments Advisory Council until his retirement in 1966. Bird died on January 28, 1984


|a Custodial history: The complete fonds of Dr. William R. Bird were acquired through purchase by the Dalhousie University Archives on May 23, 1979

650 0

|a Personal archives

650 0

|a Authors, Canadian |v Archives


|a Bird, Will R. |q (Will Richard), |d 1891- |v Archives



[1] A fonds-level description is the highest level of a finding aid, which provides the title, inclusive coverage dates, the holding’s extent, a biographical sketch (if an individual’s papers) or administrative history (if an organization’s records), and possibly its custodial history.

[2] Steven L. Hensen is a former President of the Society of American Archivists and compiler of the American archival description standard, Archives Personal Papers, and Manuscripts (APPM). (The newly revised edition, also approved by the SAA, is called Describing Archives: A Content Standard [DACS].)

[3] The work on standardizing terminology relating to bibliographic records and enhancing relationships among records that has resulted from the efforts of the Study Group of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions might be of use in this regard, but without a further examination, which is beyond the scope of this paper, the implications of the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR) regarding inclusion of hierarchical archival descriptions in library catalogues is still unknown.

[4] Proprietary databases and content management systems provide considerably less flexibility in the area of data sharing than do open systems because in the former cases transformation or migration of data, with all the accompanying potential for data loss or corruption, is necessary to move records from one system to another. EAD’s developers initially explored the possibilities of flat ASCII text, HTML marked ASCII text, and MARC, but Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML) was the final choice because of its ability to define the rules governing the logical structure of documents in what are called Document Type Definitions or DTD’s. The EAD DTD uses the most recent application of SGML, eXtensible Markup Language (XML), to produce conformant documents. The strength of this approach is in its ability to be mapped to or shared by a variety of other encoding schemes through crosswalking, as we explore here.

[5] As of September 2007 the finding aids are searchable (as are all the other web pages on the DUASC site) using the library’s free-text search engine. However, searchers are not able to narrow the parameters of their search solely to our finding aids, nor can they choose to search only by subject or fonds title.

[6] Concrete examples of similar projects are scant, though May Chang makes reference to one such project. Katherine Wisser and Jennifer O’Brien Roper also carried out some very similar work in 2002.  Evidence of others working in this area in various jurisdictions in the US, Canada, France, Spain, and elsewhere can be found in discussion threads on the EAD listserv (  

[7] A good practice for anyone just starting to produce EAD finding aids would be to run a few crosswalks (EAD-MARC, EAD-Dublin Core, etc.) into a variety of other formats up front before making any final decisions regarding which EAD tags to include in the descriptions.

[8] For a more detailed view of an excerpt from an original EAD record and a post conversion MARC 21 record, see Appendix 1.

[9] The Developing Archival Metrics project is housed at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. More information about it can be obtained from (accessed 24 October 2007).

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