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Introduction

The Building a National Archival Authorities Infrastructure project's objective is to establish a National Archival Authorities Cooperative (NAAC).

The archival community has long recognized the benefits offered by the description of corporate bodies, persons, and families that created and are documented in historical records. These benefits include improving the economy, flexibility, and effectiveness of archival description, and for the users of archives, unprecedented integrated access to archival holdings (regardless of location) and access to biographical-historical information about the people, including the social contexts in which they lived and worked. Until recently, the archival community has lacked a communication standard for authority description. With the release of Encoded Archival Context-Corporate Bodies, Persons, and Families (EAC-CPF) in 2010, the community now has such a standard. The last piece needed to realize the full benefits of archival authorities description is a sustainable archival authorities cooperative.

The project has two interrelated activities to support this goal. First, it will offer 140 scholarships, to be used for at least seven regional Society of American Archivists workshops introducing the professional community to EAC-CPF. Second, it will develop a set of recommendations addressing business, governance, and technological requirements for a sustainable NAAC. This blueprint will be shaped through a series of meetings at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in Washington, D.C. Using the Social Networks and Archival Context (SNAC) project as a demonstration of the feasibility and benefits of archival authorities, the first meeting, held May 21-22, 2012, included invited archivists, manuscript librarians, scholars, representatives of all federal repositories (NARA, Library of Congress, National Agricultural Library, National Library of Medicine, Smithsonian Institution, and National Park Service), representatives of funding agencies and foundations, and other stakeholders. Based on the information gathered at this initial meeting, small teams of experts will draft and finalize a set of recommendations and best practices for establishing and maintaining NAAC. A white paper outlining the results will be published in the fall of 2013.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services has funded Building a National Archival Authorities Infrastructure through a generous grant to the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities (IATH) at the University of Virginia, and the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Simmons College.