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207 1 9 APEnet: A MODEL FOR INTERNET BASED ARCHIVAL DISCOVERY ENVIRONMENTS Angelika Menne-Haritz Mission In January 2009 the APEnet project, funded by the European Commission, started. Its aim is to create a place on the Internet which provides joint access to archival information from European countries to support research across the holdings of all archival institutions in Europe which want to be accessible there. Borders between European countries have often changed during history, states have merged and separated, laying the ground for differences in their development as well as complicating the relationships between them, be they peaceful or hostile. European countries have their common history, and their differences just make their histories even more interesting. Therefore a gateway to archives in Europe will provide the opportunity to compare national and regional developments and to understand even better their singularity and at the same time the relations of each of them to the European identity. The gateway will help visitors to discover new sources and to inspect them directly from home or from their work place. It will reveal the jigsaw puzzle of archival holdings across Europe in all its diversity with its pieces fitting together just as they originally emerged from individual communication processes, even when they treated common subjects like the creation of the common market. Approach To achieve this goal the project, which was based on recommendations of the European Board of National Archivists (EBNA), chose a collaborative approach. There will be no central board deciding on or editing content. The project takes an approach whereby the contributing archives will achieve a common publication platform for archival descriptions but full responsibility for the content remains with the archives. That includes the holdings descriptions, digital reproductions and information on their institution and on the accessibility of the material. This collaborative platform for archival institutions is conceived as an open research platform for users on the Internet and the software developed will be provided as open source. The gateway should allow users to refine their questions, to use annotations, to learn more about backgrounds, to investigate and discover new facts, new relationships and new details that nobody knew before. That is what archives are for. Archives present old records for new insights, and deliberately browsing or looking round in descriptive information is an important step in the discovery process. BPDG_opmaak_12072010.indd 207 13/07/10 11:51 Angelika Menne-Haritz 208 The union finding aid at the centre The common publication sphere for the contributing archives is the union finding aid. This name places it in the professional tradition of describing holdings with finding aids, originally in a structure resembling book form. This form has certain undeniable advantages. For instance, books preserve stable sequences of their entries as well as protecting single items of information from getting lost. The union finding aid does the same. Furthermore it provides the advantages of a shared data environment like the union catalogues of libraries. Beside a stable and fixed sequence of the items mentioned, the book form of the original finding aid places it inside a structure with chapters and sub-chapters like the text in any book. The table of contents at the beginning gives an overview and a first orientation. The online finding aid in the form of a book as a whole provides information on one complete record group or an essential part of it by being tightly related through common provenance and being structured by the original communication processes that produced the records. As records in archives emerge from communications between units of an organisation working together to solve common problems, they reflect the processes of their origin as well as the single events which caused their creation. The structures of the finding aids represent the relations between these processes and the various steps involving utterances, demands, responses, proposals, and finally decisions communicated to the outside world. The structures are inherent in the material and are analysed and drafted in the form of a table of contents by the describing archivist. Showing the structure is essential, as it informs users about the background of each record that is needed to understand it, giving information which may be the unarticulated but implicit context of the communications which were well known and taken into account by all participants, but unknown to third parties outside these processes. The stability of the paper book has for long periods of time preserved the representation of sequence and relationships while single units of...


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