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The XML Family
of Technologies
- Bibliographical DTDs: MARC DTD, the SGML DTD for MARC Records, the
Medlane Project's XMLMARC DTD, the Open Archive MARC XML DTD, and
- Archive DTD:The Encoded Archival Description (EAD);
- Museum DTDs: MUS-EAD, EAD the Amico Data Dictionary;
- Text DTDs:The Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) DTD, the CHIO Full Text DTD.
Other related standards that were considered include Z39.50 and the Dublin Core
Metadata Initiative.The prototype remains available online at
The queries submitted and the results are all managed in a common graphical multi-
lingual interface, in a transparent way from the point of view of the user. A set of filters
allows users to filter by theme, by type of data, or by nodes.The integration of the contents
in a common standard (i.e. an XML structure with several DTDs provided for all the
different classes of content bibliographical, museums, archives, and electronic text all
with an underlying Dublin Core logic) was realised via a dedicated conversion tool.The
goal was to extract significant samples of data from the diverse traditional platforms used
by the content providers and to convert them into XML. Problems encountered were
mainly related to the resolution of incompatibilities between the structure of the original
data and the strict requirements of the various DTDs. In the running prototype, some
previously anticipated performance issues from the Java engine were also detected.
Once the implementation phase was complete, the consortium assessed the usability
of the system by users other than content owners. Cultural institutions including
archives, museum and libraries, scholars and researchers took part in this assessment.The
methodology used was a scenario-based assessment approach, where representative users
worked on typical tasks using COVAX, and the evaluators/observers used the results to
see how the system supported the users' tasks.The evaluators obtained information about
user's likes, dislikes, needs, and their overall understanding of the system by conversation,
observation, and having them answer questions both verbally and in written form. In
a second phase, the test users were given a short introduction to the system, with all
functionalities explained by the observer, and the observer demonstrating one search
together with the user. In order to become more familiar with the database, the user
was given around ten minutes to explore the database on her own.The observers then
provided the test users with the COVAX prototype and a set of tasks or scenarios to
perform. During the assessment, the test users were asked to verbalise their thoughts,
feelings and opinions while interacting with the system.
The implementation of XML technologies on this project has been highly successful.
From the point of view of ENEA, unexpected benefits included the possibility to extract
and treat data from their Oracle-powered bibliographical database system and the possi-
bility to convert them into an XML source. In general, it can be said that COVAX has
attained its goals: to allow the widely distributed documents from archives, libraries and
museums to be accessed regardless of location.This main feature has been highly praised
by users.The benefit of such a project is obvious for small and middle-sized cultural
archives, which may lack the competence or confidence to make their collections avail-
able online or preserve them for future dissemination via XML/XSLT technology.
A complete list of the technologies and standards used and considered is included in COVAX Deliverable
12, a document titled "State of the Art".This is available online at [sic].
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