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Summary and Vision

The CDL proposes to explore, in collaboration with other archival description aggregators, the creation of a national archival finding aid network that could fundamentally transform the archival description landscape while continuing to serve the needs of aggregators and archival repositories. We posit that many finding aid aggregators across the country, including our own Online Archive of California (OAC), are currently languishing without sufficient resources to update their platforms and to engage with some of the most promising advances in archival description. By pooling resources and through co-development partnerships, we believe we have the opportunity to extend the capabilities, breadth, and depth of existing aggregations -- which could include developing tools to ingest and normalize finding aid data as well as hosting and publishing finding aids. We ultimately believe that, together, we can provide users with more meaningful and richer access to archival records than each of us can alone.

With crucial LSTA seed funding administered by the California State Library, we are convening a one-year collaborative planning initiative (October 2018 - September 2019) with the following key objectives:

  • Uncover and validate high-level stakeholder (archivists, researchers, etc.) requirements and needs for finding aid aggregation.

  • Identify key challenges facing finding aid aggregators.

  • Explore the possibilities of shared infrastructure and services among current finding aid aggregators, to determine if collaboration will benefit our organizations, our contributors, and our end users. If so, identify potential shared infrastructure and service models.

  • Determine if there is collective interest and capacity to collaborate on developing shared infrastructure.

  • Develop a concrete action plan for next steps, based on the shared needs, interests and available resources within the community of finding aid aggregators.

We believe that developing this collective understanding is a necessary first step to establish the trajectory for any future finding aid aggregation, including one that would also continue to serve the needs of California repositories.

Broad consensus in the vision coupled with interest and capacity to collaborate on shared infrastructure will signal a successful outcome of this effort.  Assuming this outcome, we envision a subsequent phase of joint planning, research and design, and development work to implement the framework. We anticipate needing initial seed funding and resources, provided through in-kind contributions and grant sources -- and our intent is to model a national-level funding proposal to facilitate the initial development and launch activities.

Project proposal


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