ID: 149



Koit Saarevet has been working for The National Archives since 2000, mostly in the capacity of the project manager responsible for the development of various information systems. That includes both the first version of the Archival Information System AIS (i.e. the central catalogue and finding aid system) that went online in 2004 and the AIS 2.0, which, as of February 2014 is in its final stages of development.

Koit has a BA in IT management from Estonian Business School and has studied innovation management at MIT as a Hubert H. Humphrey fellow.


Gristel Ramler (MA, history, Tartu University) has worked in The National Archives of Estonia since 2007 as the head of private archives’ services being responsible for consulting for a wide spectrum nongovernmental institutions and for appraisal, collecting, processing and describing records of private persons.

Since 2012 she is the head of content, description and private archives’ services at the Acquisition Department at the State Archives of The National Archives.
She is a nationally accredited archivist.


Archival Descriptions 2.0

Brief summary:

The presentation summarises the experience of The National Archives of Estonia in moving the archival descriptions from the basics of having ISAD(G)/ISAAR(CPF) mandatory elements filled, to a multi-faceted interconnectedness of descriptions across collections, content types and levels of description, figuratively called Archival Descriptions 2.0.


Access to archival records is highly dependent on the quality of archival descriptions. Unfortunately, producing high quality descriptions is very laborious and archives are forced to make compromises. This is especially true in archives that have a constant flow of new acquisitions, as is the case in most national archives. Consequently, archival descriptions tend to have the following characteristics:

Fonds level descriptions are rather comprehensive

Lower levels (series, file, item) are only provided with minimal data

Collections are isolated: apart from catalogues that arrange fonds into general categories, there is no easy way to access records horizontally, i.e. to find similar records across different collections


One way to improve archival descriptions is to add new dimensions to them using faceted classification and then facilitate filling of the new data structures with specifically designed software.

 This approach has been pursued at The National Archives of Estonia and our presentation will cover the most interesting aspects:

Defining a set of taxonomies to be used in faceted classification (time periods, places, topic keywords, persons/organisations)

Allowing linking of any description unit to any taxonomy item

Using automated tools to create new links between description units and taxonomies

Using crowdsourcing to improve the descriptions

 Finally, we present our end-user access solution that takes advantage of the "enhanced archival descriptions".

Throughout the presentation, the theoretical considerations are illustrated by examples from our Archival Information System AIS, where the principles have been implemented.

Scientific contribution:

Our path towards Archival Descriptions 2.0 has not been that of coherent and methodical scientific research, but an on-going series of experiments with different descriptive metadata models in numerous versions of even more numerous content specific access tools. Our combined metadata catalogue/content browser tools for photos, for film and audio, for maps and plans, for parchments etc have evolved over time and taken input from diverse sources, such as scientific literature, conference papers, international research projects and serendipitous discovery.

Nevertheless, we believe our experience can serve as a useful item for case study by serious researchers, providing them with a valuable base for empirical analysis. Our systems contain many millions of digitized objects of different types, and the descriptions of them, so our case has benefit for research both in quality and quantity.


Archival descriptions, faceted classification, taxonomies, faceted search, crowdsourcing