Friday, May 16, 2014

Incorporating xEAC entities into EAD finding aids

xEAC and EADitor were both conceived as standalone applications. This is what separates xEAC, especially, from other authority management modules that come packaged in larger archival suites like ICA-AtoM and ArchivesSpace. xEAC is applicable toward LAM authority control, for whom EAC-CPF is the primary audience, but can also be applied to scholarly prosopographies (and eventually support social network analysis built upon linked open data methodologies).

It is now possible to hook xEAC and EADitor together through an intermediate, optional, RDF triplestore and SPARQL endpoint. This will be discussed in greater detail in a later blog post. This particular post will detail the more immediate connection between entities defined in xEAC and personal, family, and corporate names within EAD finding aids.

Since its inception, xEAC has provided a Solr-based Atom feed for published EAC-CPF records. The Atom feed returns results based on the Lucene query syntax. A number of fields are available to narrow the search. For example, the entityType_facet Solr field allows a user to search for a name of a particular entity type, which is defined in the EAC-CPF schema as being either "person," "family," or "corporateBody." See for example. The results are machine readable, and therefore the EADitor XForms application can read and process the search results. The interface for persname, corpname, and famname in EADitor has been adjusted to include xEAC lookups, and the functionality is practically identical to the VIAF lookup mechanism (which returns results in RSS as opposed to Atom).

Integrating a xEAC lookup mechanism into EADitor was incredibly easy as a result, and I managed to implement it in about 30 minutes. The Settings page for EADitor now includes an input for the xEAC home page URL. An XForms submission will process this URL and append 'feed/' to it to ascertain whether Atom XML is available at that resource. If so, the xEAC URL will be committed into the EADitor configuration file. If the xEAC URL is in the config, the persname, corpname, and famname element XBL components within the XForms application will include a radio button to select the xEAC lookup, in addition to VIAF and local vocabulary. When you select an entity after performing the lookup, the entity's URI will be embedded in the @authfilenumber attribute. In EAD3, this attribute will be @vocabularysource (I think), following linked data advancements in EAC-CPF.

When linking the EAD finding aid to an entity defined in xEAC, the @type attribute will be set for the persname, corpname, or famname to 'xeac:entity.' Ideally, I would like to avoid system-defined attributes, but I think they are very useful in this case, as it will indicate to the EADitor UI XSLT stylesheets that the EAC-CPF XML can be extracted programmatically by appending '.xml' to the entity URI, and therefore biographical information may be extracted directly from the EAC-CPF entity record. This, I believe, is the dream of the creators of EAC-CPF. Authority information and archival/biographical context are stored separately from the finding aid, but yet the information is made available through the finding aid user interface by means of linked open data methodologies.

I have not yet built these hooks into EADitor's finding aid user interface, but expect them to be available when the new version of EADitor is released later this summer. This feature represents a major advancement in the publication of archival materials.

But wait, there's more.

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