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Spreadsheet to EAD to ArchivesSpace

January 26th, 2017 by Kate Bowers

The spreadsheet (ead_from_excel_for_as) attached to this post is being tested to markup EAD <c>s optimized for ingest to ArchivesSpace.  This spreadsheet allows users to take advantage of the drop-down, autofill, and autoincrement features of MSexcel for entering box and folder numbers and other repetitive data.  It also constrains the content of some fields. For example, extent measurements must be selected from a set of 53 counts and measures currently in use in Harvard’s ArchivesSpace installation.

This is only a test!  (But I’d love to get some feedback.)

Make some EAD components by entering a series list, folder list, item list into the cells. If you do this a lot, the column labels will make sense to you.  If they don’t, let me know.

Select the cells that contain the EAD markup.

Paste them into a valid EAD file at the point in the hierarchy where you want them. They should be valid EAD markup. If they are not, I’d love to hear what went wrong!

Here’s a basic EAD that is primed for testing ingest to ArchivesSpace.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<ead xmlns="urn:isbn:1-931666-22-9" xmlns:xsi=""

                <titleproper>YOUR NAME HERE test excel ingest formula</titleproper>
    <archdesc level="collection">
            <unitid>TEST excel ingest formula </unitid>
            <origination><persname>YOUR NAME HERE</persname></origination>
            <unittitle>test excel ingest formula</unittitle>
            <unitdate normal="1900/2000">1900-2000</unitdate>
            <physdesc><extent>1 cubic feet</extent></physdesc>




The Middle Way EAC-CPF exploratory project for “Solve for X” at Simmons SLIS

April 15th, 2016 by Kate Bowers

Slides of Talk at Simmons 2016-04-15

My students’ brilliant MPLP debate points

February 6th, 2016 by Kate Bowers

I teach SLIS 440 (Archives Access and Use) as adjunct faculty at Simmons College in Boston. Today we had the great debate: Pro- and con-MPLP. The brilliant Kathy Wisser, the “real” professor at Simmons who designed the 440 syllabus and teaches 440 to many, many more students than I, invented this classroom exercise. I’ve always been enormously impressed by how effective it is in getting the students to think deeply and thoroughly discuss MPLP.  Here’s a table of the issues and main points that the students raised during the exercise.

I’m so impressed with these students!





  • Climate control is not everywhere
  • MPLP includes “no look” scenarios in which preservation issues are not identified
  • Failing to do simple preservation tasks risks collection damage
  • Climate control is in wide use
  • Any look at a backlogged fonds is better than no look, which is what you get when backlogs remain entirely untouched
  • Preservation tasks are hugely time-consuming
  • MPLP leaves no way to know something has gone missing
  • Reading room security is an alternative way of dealing with security issues raised by MPLP
  • Only determined researchers will put in the effort needed to go through minimally described collections
  • Some access is better than no access
  • Opens archives to risk of release of confidential information, which can also risk the archives’ reputation
  • Consideration of confidentiality can be addressed in deeds of gifts and other interactions with donors, in fact, implementing MPLP may prompt archival repositories to produce better deeds of gift
  • Could reduces perceived need for and funding for work of professional archivists
  • If only determined researchers use the collections, the overall use of the archives is diminished, making the archive appear to have less impact and be less deserving of funding
Funding impact
  • As greater access for formerly backlogged collections is available, the impact and utility of the archives will demonstrate it is more deserving of funding
  • Accessing MPLP collections places more burden on the researcher
  • Time to use these collections is much longer
  • Some users may simply give up
Impact on users
  • Some access is better than none
  • Give the researcher an opportunity to find out if they want to take on the burden of accessing the collection
  • MPLP is open to misinterpretation by archivists, leading to poor implementation and poor practice
Firm definition of MPLP elusive
  • MPLP empowers the archivist to choose how to implement it for their unique circumstances or selectively (for some collections, not others)
  • It may appear the work of description is not valued
  • MPLP places a large burden on reference archivists, who have to assist users to navigate under-described collections and may end up retrieving boxes in which nothing of use to the researcher is stored
Impact on archivists
  • MPLP allows archivists to get on with the work needed under a model of overall prioritization, rather than a one-treatment-fits-all-situations scenario
  • MPLP is an inadequate solution, alternatives include more focused collection development and advocacy
  • MPLP addresses and reduces an otherwise intractable problem

Tips and tricks for editing EAD in oXygen

November 12th, 2014 by Kate Bowers

Since I had to write up most of these for a new staffer, I thought I’d share a few things about oXygen that have made editing EAD easier. Details are in the PDF, but here’s the list:

1) Menus can be modified

2) Use the “Author view”

3) Panes can be selected and their locations modified

4) Breadcrumb trail can also be used to select

5) Find‐and‐replace in “Text view” can use regular expressions

6) Paste text as XML in Author view

7) Assign keyboard shortcuts


Please add your own tips in the comments!

Cataloging the Universe of Visual Materials: XML Extras!

August 11th, 2014 by Kate Bowers

I’m privileged to be leading a segment of “Cataloging the Universe of Visual Materials,” a pre-conference workshop that is part of the Society of American Archivists annual meeting.  I’m joining a team of truly impressive experts:

  • Robert Burton, Photograph Cataloger, Harvard University
  • James Eason, Archivist for Pictorial Collections, University of California, Berkeley
  • Mary Alice Harper, Head, Photography & Art Cataloging, Harry Ransom Center
  • Miriam Meislik, Media Curator, University of Pittsburgh

We have been ruthlessly herded brilliantly marshaled by Cathy Martyniak, Audio Visual and Image Archivist, University of Florida and Wendy Pflug, Associate Curator and Assistant Professor, Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, The Ohio State University.

While my segment is eye-crossing / sleep-inducing the truly exciting stuff full of angle brackets and field numbers, I’m really looking forward to my colleagues’ contributions on photographs as information artifacts and aesthetic objects, on recognizing photographic and other image formats and processes, and on the challenges of deciding how to record and convey the value of visual resources to users.

As a treat for the XML geeks out there, even if you aren’t attending the workshop, I’ve put together some XML extras.  I’ve taken a finding aid for a collection of Harvard University News Office photographs that date from World War II and the demobilization era, and marked the collection-level stuff up in MODS and VRA Core.  I’ll be adding Dublin Core and MARCXML and improving the MODS and VRA markup when I get back from SAA.

In my segment on metadata standards, systems, and input, I’ll be touching on the fact that the varous communities of practice (libraries, archives, museums, and visual resources specialists) have established their own content and encoding standards.  What’s really hit me during this exercise, though, is how the various communities have different preferences and values and even entirely different pieces of information.  I hope to provide some reflection on that later.

In the mean time… get yourself and XML editor, download some files, and play!

Link to XML extras:


She’s an author first… context matters

July 16th, 2014 by Kate Bowers

When inadequate data is transferred from a handwritten description into an online environment, there is potential for promulgation of error.

For the 2014 Cambridge Open Archives Tour ( we pulled out some of our fabulous collection items.  Among them was a recipe box.

Thanks to the need for exhibition labels, a colleague did a little background research and uncovered the true story behind it.  From the old description (below), you’d probably conclude that this was a box of recipes very much like you find in your own kitchen–things picked up over the years, family favorites, and aspirational dishes that you’ve never even tried.

Here’s what the old record looked like. Click the link in the call number to see the current version.

Author : LinkGreenough, Marietta McPherson.
Title : LinkRecipe file, ca. 1920.
Location : Harvard University Archives HUG 1436.40 Library Info
History notes : Marietta McPherson was the first wife of Chester N. Greenough, a professor of English at Harvard University.
Summary : Card file of recipes collected by Marietta McPherson Greenough, ca. 1920.
Subjects : LinkCooking, American.
LinkCooking — Massachusetts — Cambridge.
LinkCollege teachers’ spouses — Massachusetts — Cambridge.
Keyword Subject : Harvard University — Faculty spouses.
Harvard University — Women.
Form/Genre : LinkRecipes.
HOLLIS Number : 009359473

Giving all due credit to the “quick and dirty” catalog record for making the item discoverable, I nonetheless roll my eyes at the only context the record provides. “Marietta McPherson was the first wife of Chester N. Greenough, a professor of English at Harvard University.”

Full disclosure: I’m pretty sure I created this record.

In point of fact, Marietta McPherson Greenough was an author, cookbook collector, and an advocate of home economics as a field of study. Under the pseudonym Mary Green, she published Better Meals for Less Money in 1917. The recipes in the card file seem intended to cope with war-time shortages. Some were vegetarian or required only a small amount of meat, and the desserts call for only small amounts of butter or eggs.

This biographical note that limits itself to who her husband was–when the recipe collection is so clearly the product of her own research–arguably constitutes error. (If one of my students had done this, there’d be some fairly copious comments on their assignment!)

When inadequate data is transferred from a handwritten description into an online environment, there is potential for promulgation of error and bias, as well as the welcome possibility of being called out on error and bias.  Such old descriptions are often the source for “quick and dirty” catalog records. The inaccuracy and bias in this case derive from an outdated view of the archives, an outdated view of the world, and an outdated expectation about what researchers want.  Once upon a time “wife of professor X” was the only presumed role of significance, the professor the presumed topic of research, and the professor’s papers their presumed resource of choice.

One of our visitors at the Cambridge Open Archives Tour remarked on how many of our staff were women.  I’d like to think any archivist today–male or female–would appreciate context and recognize research value.





How I learned to stop worrying and love RDA

June 18th, 2014 by Kate Bowers












The most cryptic finding aid ever

October 25th, 2013 by Kate Bowers

In a world of bad finding aids, there are some that make you cringe. Did my archives do that?

This finding aid stands out because of the obvious hard work that went into it, but it is perhaps the least user-friendly thing I’ve ever seen.


Here’s the handy key from the bottom of page 3:


Now that you know how to interpret it, have a gander at page 21 of the finding aid:

Page 21 of the finding aid


Let’s translate the “1910″ line. Here’s an enlargement:


It reads “1910    2, 1, (1)     1xc, 1relay”

This tells us that there are 6 photographic prints of the “track” team (which in this finding aid means any team that runs).

In the position under the “Varsity” column header, “2,1,(1)” means four photographs are of the Varsity track team.  Of these four, two are presumably from the same negative and definitely from 1910, one is from a different negative and definitely 1910, and one is from a third negative and probably from 1910.

There are no photographs indicated under the column for the Junior Varsity team, but there are two “other” photographs.  One is the cross-country team, and the other is the relay team.

Of course, there’s a lot that this  finding aid is not saying.

There’s no information about the photographs’ sizes, or anything to help you retrieve the right folder.  (These are portfolio-sized folders stored flat in drawers, which is scary, since a lot of the photos are small, but we’ll let preservationists shudder about that.)

Near the top on the right-hand side are the years 1930 and 1931.  Does it take steeping in an Ivy League tradition to understand that “H-Y” means this is a photograph of a Harvard-Yale track meet?

Page21 H-Y detail


We’ve decoded this finding aid and converted it to EAD, but we didn’t convert some of the information– such as whether a date attribution was doubtful or whether more than one print might have come from the same negative.

And we’re still being slightly mysterious.  There are placeholders in the EAD version waiting for links to several dozen digitized images.

So, is this more user-friendly?