DS-2011-04: System Evaluation of Archival Description and Access

DS-2011-04: Zhang, Junte (2011) System Evaluation of Archival Description and Access. Doctoral thesis, University of Amsterdam.

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How do archives provide access to their records and let users search?
The answer is archival description. Encoded Archival Description (EAD)
in Extensible Markup Language (XML) is the de facto technical standard
for 'electronic' archival descriptions. It is now used to bridge the
gulf between tangible records in archives and digital objects on the
World Wide Web. These descriptions are finding aids, which are tools
to search and find information about, or references to, archival
records. The archival finding aids in EAD are left to searchers (out
of sight and contact) to explore in unknown ways: how do searchers
interact with these finding aids, and what type of retrieval system is
needed to support them? The approach of this dissertation is to apply
XML retrieval techniques to the EAD finding aids, develop system
evaluation of EAD retrieval, and study information seeking behavior of
archival search.

The first study involves the design and implementation of the archival
search engine README. The README system attempts to incorporate
current technologies with the archival structure in finding aids -
such as XML retrieval - and simultaneously to uphold the archival
principles where this structure is based upon. The system is the proof
of concept.

Having established this baseline, the next study explores and tests
the construction of an information retrieval (IR) test collection. A
test collection is a key component in IR evaluation. The basis of this
test collection are the queries and clicks on archival descriptions
that can be found in the search log files of the Nationaal
Archief. There is no readily-available test collection for evaluating
the accuracy of the retrieval of archival descriptions of records by
an archival search engine. Manually creating such a collection is
expensive. The study shows that automatically creating a test
collection seems a viable alternative.

Archival principles - such as provenance and original order - are
deeply rooted in the arrangement and subsequent description of
archival records. The investigation continues by shedding new light on
them in a system evaluation. Additionally, the experiments probe XML
retrieval-specific issues, such as the retrieval of certain
elements. The study concludes by reflecting on the README archival
search engine, which is the baseline of the probes in this
dissertation. How effective are certain archival principles for
archival access in this digital age?

Using the archival search log files, the research focus shifts to the
arrangement of records in EAD and user search behaviors using this
arrangement. The sub-document clicks within the finding aids point to
the online interaction of users within 'electronic' archival
descriptions of records. The analysis of the interactions comprises of
quantifying the search behavior. This results in a state diagram that
captures different information search behaviors of different
people. By analyzing real-world interaction, the discussion on the use
of the finding aid in this digital age as access tool becomes more
complete. The result is more understanding of online archival search
behavior within EAD finding aids, which can be used to improve a
search system adapted to existing 'electronic' archival descriptions.

Finally, the system evaluation deals with tailoring a search engine to
the different user stereotypes, namely 'expert' and 'novice' groups
based on the number of times that a user re-uses the system. The
results show that although there are significant differences in terms
of search behavior, this does not necessarily mean that for more
effective retrieval of archival descriptions, the system needs to be
adapted to improve access for these different user groups.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Report Nr: DS-2011-04
Series Name: ILLC Dissertation (DS) Series
Year: 2011
Subjects: Language
Depositing User: Dr Marco Vervoort
Date Deposited: 14 Jun 2022 15:16
Last Modified: 14 Jun 2022 15:16
URI: https://eprints.illc.uva.nl/id/eprint/2099

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