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The Northwest Digital Archives (NWDA) is a National Endowment for the Humanities-funded effort by fifteen institutions in the Pacific Northwest to create a finding-aids repository. Approximately 2,300 finding aids that follow the Encoded Archival Description (EAD) standard are being contributed to a union catalog by academic and archival institutions in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. This paper provides some information on the EAD standard and on search and retrieval issues for EAD XML documents. It describes native XML technology and the issues that were considered in the selection of a native XML database, Ixiasoft's TextML, to support the NWDA project.
Pitti, one of the founders of the EAD standard, noted the primary motivation behind the creation of EAD: "To provide a tool to help mitigate the fact that the geographic distribution of collections severely limits the ability of researchers, educators, and others to locate and use primary sources." (1) Pitti expanded on this need for EAD in a 1999 D-Lib article:
The logical components of archival description and their relations to one another need to be accurately identified in a machine-readable form to support sophisticated indexing, navigation, and display that provide thorough and accurate access to, and description and control of, archival materials. (2)
In a more recent publication, Pitti and Duff noted a key advantage offered by EAD that relates to the focus of this article, the development of an EAD union catalog:
EAD makes it possible to provide union access to detailed archival descriptions and resources in repositories distributed throughout the world.... Libraries and archives will be able to easily share information about complementary records and collections, and to "virtually" integrate collections related by provenance, but dispersed geographically or administratively. (3)
In a 2001 American Archivist article, Roth examined EAD history and deployment methods used up to the 2001 time period. Importantly, two of the most prominent delivery systems described by Roth--DynaText (a server-side solution) and Panorama (a client-side solution)--were, by 2003, obsolete products for EAD delivery. This is indicative of the rapid pace of change in EAD deployment, in part due to the migration from SGML to XML technologies. Roth described survey results obtained on EAD deployment that underscore the recognized need at that time for a "cost-effective server-side XML delivery system." The lack of such a solution motivated institutions to choose HTML as a delivery method for EAD finding aids. (4)
Articles like Roth's that describe specific EAD search-and-retrieval implementation options are in short supply. One such option, the University of Michigan DLXS XPAT software, is …