Transforming the Crazy Quilt: Archival Displays from a User's Point of View

  • Wendy Duff
  • Penka Stoyanova


This paper reports on the results of a focus group study to obtain users' opinions on the content and format of displays in archival information systems. The study addressed two questions: what information about archival materials would users like to see displayed in online public access catalogues or on the web and how would they like the material displayed? Participants evaluated an Encoded Archival Description display, displays taken from four existing archival information systems, and a sixth specially created display based on guidelines on bibliographic displays. The present study produced a number of findings, for example that users had problems interpreting information regarding physical description and dates of creation and that many were confused by use of the word "fonds." The paper concludes with suggestions for designing more usable displays.


Cet article fait état des résultats d'une étude réalisée à l'aide d'un groupe témoin d'usagers en vue d'obtenir leur opinion sur le contenu et le format de l'affichage des systèmes d'information archivistique. L'étude soulevait deux questions : quelle information au sujet des documents d'archives les usagers souhaiteraient-ils voir affichée dans les catalogues disponibles en ligne ou sur le web et comment voudraient-ils voir cette information formatée ? Les participants ont évalué un affichage réalisé à l'aide de la norme américaine d'encodage des descriptions archivistiques (Encoded Archival Description, EAD), celui de quatre systèmes d'information archivistique existants et six autres formats créés spécialement à l'aide de règles bibliographiques d'affichage. Différentes conclusions sont tirées de cette étude comme, par exemple, que les usagers ont de la difficulté à interpréter l'information relative à la description physique et à la date de création des documents alors que certains ont été déconcertés par l'usage du mot « fonds ». En conclusion, l'article formule des suggestions destinées à la création de formats d'affichages satisfaisants.

Author Biographies

Wendy Duff
Wendy Duff is an assistant professor at the University of Toronto, Faculty of Information Studies. She received her PhD from the University of Pittsburgh. While doing her doctoral work she was the project coordinator for the University of Pittsburgh Electronic Recordkeeping Project. She has written numerous articles on various aspects of archival description, electronic records, and access to archival material. She is presently co-investigator for a usage analysis study for a Digitization and Access Project funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. A goal of the project is to study use patterns of a digital collection model compared to a print or fiche model. She is chair of the Canadian Committee on Archival Description, a member of the Encoded Archival Description Working Group, and was a member of International Archival Description Adhoc Commission on Descriptive Standards. Her primary research interests are metadata, user studies, archival description, and electronic records.
Penka Stoyanova
Penka Stoyanova graduated with a Master of Information Studies degree in October 1998 from the Faculty of Information Studies, University of Toronto, and also holds a Bachelor of Chemical Engineering degree from the Higher Institute of Chemical Technology, Sofia, Bulgaria. She is presently working at the Credit Valley Hospital Library, Mississauga, Ontario. She has also worked as a Research Assistant on various research projects at the Faculty of Information Studies, University of Toronto. Before coming to Canada, she worked as a special librarian for the printing industry in Bulgaria.
How to Cite
Duff, Wendy, and Penka Stoyanova. 1998. “Transforming the Crazy Quilt: Archival Displays from a User’s Point of View”. Archivaria 45 (February), 44-79.

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