"FAST" Workshops in Finding Aids SGML Training
Finding aids—also known as archival guides, registers, indexes, and handlists—play a vital role in archives management and research. Created to reveal where an archival collection came from, how it is organized, and what it contains, finding aids are treasure maps for researchers.
RLG's primary sources members broke new ground in the first half of the 1990s by bringing catalog records for entire archival collections into the online mainstream of the RLG Union Catalog. By 1996 pioneers in the primary sources community were beginning to tag finding aids to be used on the Web according to a new Encoded Archival Description (EAD) standard. An implementation of Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML), EAD retains the hierarchy of often complex finding aids. RLG's community was eager to create greater access by putting its collection finding aids online.
To promulgate the standard, build expertise in its application, and jump-start the move of finding aids online, RLG garnered funding to develop and offer a series of regional training workshops, working with Kris Kiesling, University of Texas, Austin, and Michael Fox, Minnesota Historical Society. Between 1996 and 1998 over 200 archivists from 115 institutions in the US, Canada, Europe, the UK, and Australia participated in the "FAST [Finding Aids SGML Training] Track." For continued, wider use, RLG then turned over the FAST curriculum to the Society of American Archivists: SAA courses are offered regularly.