The Bancroft Library
Unversity of California
Berkeley, CA 94720-6000
The primary resources in the nation's research libraries, which constitute an invaluable foundation for research, are increasingly viewed as resources for teaching and learning for students in elementary school through college. The geographic distribution of such collections added to the fragility and uniqueness of many primary source materials have always presented barriers to access. Digital technologies offer opportunities to overcome these problems of geographic distribution and fragility of primary sources by making digital surrogates of the materials available on the Internet where they can be used by scholars, students, and the general public.
The Making Of America II Testbed Project  (MoA II) continues and extends research and demonstration projects that have begun to develop best practices for the encoding of intellectual, structural, and administrative data regarding primary resources housed in research libraries. It builds most directly on the development of the Encoded Archival Description (EAD) (EAD Working Group, 1998), now being maintained jointly by The Society of American Archivists and the Library of Congress. While the EAD provides a community standard for encoding finding aids, it does not provide any guidance for creating or encoding the digitized surrogates of the primary source materials which may be contained in collections. Therefore, the next step in the process of developing seamless access through EAD-encoded finding aids is the development of related community practices for creating and encoding the digitized versions of the primary sources.
The MoA II project proposes a Digital Library Service Model in which services are based on tools that work with the digital objects from distributed repositories. A digital object is defined as encapsulating content, metadata and methods. Our hope is that the MoA II project can serve as a first step towards the standardization of digital objects' content, metadata and methods. We believe that such standardization will vastly reduce the effort needed to develop tools and services that work with materials from different content providers.
The MoA II object model defines classes of digital archival objects (e.g., diaries, journals, photographs, correspondence, etc.). As expected, each object in a given class has content (e.g., ASCII text, TIFF images, SGML documents) that is a digital representation of a particular item. In addition to content, any given class of archival object also encapsulates descriptive, structural and administrative metadata used to discover, display, navigate, manipulate and learn more about a particular object's management information. Finally, a class of archival object will encapsulate a variety of associated methods, where the methods are used by tools to retrieve, store or manipulate that object's content.
To support this model, the MoA II project has implemented has three major components: (1) a database system for capturing metadata regarding digital objects, and encoding that information in XML format; (2) a program which will take that XML metadata description for a given archival object and produce a set of Java class files that incorporate the metadata and methods necessary to manipulate the metadata and content of the object (Jones, 1997); and (3) a browser for selecting objects for display and navigating within those objects. In combination, this system allows archives to track their work flow in creating digitized versions of primary source material while simultaneously capturing associated descriptive, administrative, and structural metadata, encapsulate that information in object format for dissemination, and present those objects to users in a manner that facilitates the objects' navigation and use. Further information about each of these tools, including the DTD for the XML format and a demonstration version of the object browser, are available at the MoA II web site. Development of a test digital library using these tools is currently being undertaken by the MoA II project teams at Cornell University, New York Public Library, Pennsylvania State University, Stanford University, and the University of California at Berkeley.
The MoA II system architecture as currently implemented has demonstrated the feasibility of the object model for providing access to digital versions of archival material, as well as providing an initial suite of tools for creating, disseminating and using such digital objects. By establishing an XML DTD describing the necessary metadata elements for production of such digital objects, the MoA II project has attempted to help start the discussion of how such digital objects might be standardized. The project has also identified some potential areas for further research, including the best mechanisms for encoding the complex relationships between object content and descriptive, structural and administrative metadata, how we might standardize document display mechanisms for scholarly use, and whether we might be able to standardize application program interfaces (APIs) for interacting with digital archival objects. We hope that the development of the MoA II system will encourage other members of the archival community both to begin exploring the process of providing access to digital versions of their materials, and participate in efforts to help standardize the implementation of such materials in order to ease the development of tools and services for archive patrons.