Expanding the Community: The Museums and the Online Archive of California (MOAC) Project

Mary W. Elings
Eva Garcelon
The Bancroft Library
University of California
Berkeley, CA 94720-6000


Museums, archives, and special collections hold important and unique primary source materials which, with the advent of networked computing technologies, are being made available online to users around the world. Early projects within the archival and library communities have looked at the feasibility and technical issues of making these resources available in a networked environment using open standards for information delivery.

Among the most notable of these early efforts was the development of Encoded Archival Description (EAD), an SGML encoding and descriptive standard maintained by the Library of Congress and the Society of American Archivists. The development of EAD has fostered numerous follow on projects, the aim of which have been to test and expand the capabilities of this new encoding standard for the description and delivery of online primary source materials. One of the most significant of these has been the creation of the California Digital Library's Online Archive of California (OAC), the largest union database of EAD finding aids in the country, which includes finding aids for both manuscript and pictorial collections from throughout the state.

With projects like the OAC and other EAD projects across the country, archives and libraries have implemented this new standard as the preferred method for making their content rich materials available on the internet. With this, interest in using EAD has spread to other communities with similar holdings, such as museums.

MOAC Project

The Museums and the Online Archive of California (MOAC) project is a collaborative endeavor between archives and museums looking at implementing the EAD standard for museum and special collections. The MOAC project will develop a prototype "virtual museum and special collections archive" that integrates standardized EAD finding aids for these collections into a single source, thus providing access to important primary sources from multiple repositories across California.

The MOAC project is the first large-scale project that will attempt a museum implementation of EAD. The nine participating partners (the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive, the Hearst Museum of Anthropology, the Oakland Museum of California, the Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts, the UCR/California Museum of Photography, The Bancroft Library, the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University, the Japanese American National Museum, and the Fowler Museum of Cultural History) will build a testbed of over 30 EAD collection finding aids linked to approximately 37,000 images.

The MOAC project will address such issues as interoperability of data, use of descriptive standards and vocabularies within the EAD format, centralized and de-centralized models for data creation and delivery (URLs and URNs), and providing for workflows that can accommodate many different types of institutions, both those that are economically and technologically rich and those that are not. By successfully developing its EAD implementation guidelines within the context of the existing OAC Guidelines, the project will make it possible for the OAC to expand to include more museum collections in the future.

Case Study

As part of this project, The Bancroft Library has just completed The Honeyman Collection Digital Archive project, a one-year project to make The Robert B. Honeyman Jr. Collection of Early Californian and Western American Pictorial Material available on the internet. The Honeyman project is a participant and the first major contributor to the MOAC project.

The Honeyman collection is comprised of over 2300 items dated from ca. 1790 to ca. 1930, including original oil paintings, watercolors, drawings, prints, ephemera and other materials related to the old West, with emphasis on the early California and Gold Rush periods. The Honeyman project sought to obtain full bibliographic control over the collection through creation of USMARC records; a comprehensive and detailed EAD finding aid; and archival digital images of all items hyperlinked to descriptions. The project used descriptive standards from both the archive and museum communities to structure the project database (developed in Microsoft Access 97) and followed established cataloging rules and created internal conventions for data capture.

Based on guidelines agreed upon by the MOAC partners, the Honeyman project resulted in detailed online description of the collection. Each image is accompanied by information such as creator name, dates, nationality and role; title, date and place of publication, call number, materials and technique, content description, notes and inscriptions, and subject and genre/format headings. Within the EAD structure the above information is tagged based on type and therefore allows for content-specific searching.

The Honeyman Collection Digital Archive is among the first EAD finding aids to provide this level of access to a pictorial collection, as well as to use controlled vocabulary within the item-level record, and will serve as a prototype model for the development of the MOAC project. By demonstrating the feasibility of providing detailed description using community standards and controlled terminology to facilitate access, it is hoped that the MOAC project model will be of significance to the archival and museum communities, as well as to other cultural heritage communities.

Community and End-User Benefit

This wealth of collections-related cultural knowledge contained in art, history, and anthropology museums will enrich OAC as a resource for humanities research and education. Collections like the Honeyman and other MOAC contributors, could have significance not only to those interested in the history of California, but also in art history, urban development, sociology, environmental studies and many other disciplines. By gathering these resources into a single source union database, the user can search and retrieve these rich documents without having to go to each institution separately.

The main goal of the MOAC project is to make these important and unique primary source materials easily accessible online. In the past, access to many of these materials has been restricted to those who could come to the institutions to view them. By making these materials available on the internet, it is hoped that more users will have an opportunity to explore the rich and diverse holdings of our shared cultural heritage. But technology is only part of the equation; without content, community involvement, and efforts like the MOAC project, our rich resources will remain inaccessible to all but a few individuals.


Development of the Encoded Archival Description Document Type Definition: <http://www.loc.gov/ead/eadback.html>

Digital Historical Collections: Types, Elements, And Construction: <http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/elements.html>

Honeyman Digital Archive: <http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/CalHeritage>

Museums and the Online Archive of California (MOAC): <http://www.bampfa.berkeley.edu/moac/>

Online Archives of California (OAC): <http://sunsite2.berkeley.edu/oac/>

California Heritage Project: <http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/CalHeritage/>

EAD @ UC Berkeley: <http://sunsite.Berkeley.EDU/ead/>