ICA standards have been successful in promoting international consistency in descriptive practices. They have facilitated system developments, data sharing, and cooperative integrated access. However, because the four standards were created serially rather than together, the intended complementary interrelation of each with the others is implicit rather than explicit. Many archivists have had difficulty understanding how to use the four standards together to form complete archival description. Further, the emergence of semantic web technologies, in particular conceptual models (or ontologies) and Linked Open Data (LOD), offer many benefits to the archival community to improve archival descriptive practice and to make it more effective to better serve and expand the user community: methods for clarifying and making explicit the concepts and assumptions underlying archival descriptive practice; methods for formally representing archival descriptive data that enables computational use and reuse of the data to provide access to and understanding of archival resources; and methods for sharing archival descriptive data in integrated cultural heritage access systems. The challenges presented by the existing standards and the demonstrated promise of the new technologies led ICA to review its strategies related to the current descriptive standards. Various local and national efforts have seized the initiative in the development of archival conceptual models, and while these initiatives clearly demonstrate a growing awareness of and interest in the benefits offered by the new technologies, to ensure that the next generation of archival descriptive standards reflects international consensus and furthers the consensus building, collaboration, sharing of knowledge and technologies, it is time to learn from and bring these initiatives together.
For the term 2012-2016, EGAD has as its mandate to develop a conceptual data model for archival description that identifies and defines the essential components of archival description and their interrelations in order to further shared international understanding, facilitate the development of the next generation of archival descriptive systems, further regional, national, and international collaboration, and promote collaboration with allied cultural heritage communities. The conceptual model will serve archivists who have the responsibility for the processing and description of archives, developers who build archival information systems, and allied cultural heritage professionals. The conceptual model developed by EGAD will focus first and foremost on the needs of the archival community, though it will also look forward to interoperating with models developed by and for the museum and library communities.
The conceptual model will be formally documented in text and diagrams, and also expressed in at least one machine-readable expression. During the development process, both products will be made available in draft for evaluation and comments by the international archival community. The final products will be available on the ICA website.