EAD @ 10 and the future of archival description

As I’ve mentioned previously, I’ve been involved in planning the upcoming EAD @ 10 symposium. The full agenda has been posted and registration is now open. RLG Partners can register for free, email me for details. For the rest of you, early bird registration closes on the Wednesday the 13th.

I’ve been helping to coordinate the “Into the Future” portion of the program, panel discussions on what the next 10 years of archival description will bring. We have 5 great speakers confirmed: Mary Elings, Mark Matienzo, Michelle Light, Jeanne Kramer-Smyth and Kathy Wisser.

Yesterday, Kris Kiesling and I had a great phone call with most of the panelist, and in a little more than 30 minutes we had raised several “big questions” about what will influence the future of archival description. I’m going to list these below, and invite you to add your questions to the comments here, or, add to the (unofficial) SAA Wiki page for EAD @ 10. Panelists will each address a few of these questions, so if you have a question about the future for our crystal-ball-gazers, let’s hear it!

Factors that might influence the future of archival description.

  • What will be the impact of MPLP/Greene-Meissner. If we are moving to a model of less processing up front, and perhaps more iterative processing down the line (“just-in-time description?”) what will be the impact on description or descriptive workflow?
  • Specifically thinking about EAD, that standard was developed to support a range of descriptive practices. With 10 years of encoding under our belts, can we imagine identifying what people actually do in terms of markup? Determine what descriptive elements are most useful both from and end user and management point of view? Using this information to move to a much tighter version of EAD?
  • As different metadata creation centers (libraries, archives, museums, digital library production, institutional repository, etc.) come into closer contact with one another, what will be the influence of these communities on one another?
  • Will some aspects of descriptions (names, places, subject terms, etc.) become networked? If so, what will be in the impact on archival description. Would netwokred elements of description allow for some automatic identification of terms, rather than implicit markup?
  • Will archival description move away from a document-centered model? What are the possibilities for moving to other models of representation? Shifting away from hierarchical structures and towards relational structures, for example.
  • What will be the impact of user contributed metadata?
  • What will be the influence of electronic records?
  • Will metadata creation tools lead us in new directions, or do they simply model current practices?
  • It can be argued that EAD has changed archival descriptive practice. What standards will change our practices going forward?
  • It can be argued that technology (specifically, the advent of the web) has changed our approach towards archival descriptive practice. What new technologies will change our practice going forward?
  • How will our evolving understanding of end user needs shape archival descriptive practice?