Encoded Archival Context (EAC) is a proposed new data format that could have extensive impact on future genealogy software and databases. Encoded Archival Context specification provides a formal method of "encoding descriptions of persons, corporate bodies, and families responsible for the creation of records and other resources, where such descriptions provide context for understanding and interpreting the records and resources."
In theory, EAC could supplement or replace today's imperfect GEDCOM format used by almost all genealogy programs. As stated by the Ad Hoc Working Group on Encoded Archival Context (EAC), "EAC data are designed for use in federated database applications and collaborative research across a broad range of domains, including prosopographical research and genealogical studies."
The Ad Hoc Working Group on Encoded Archival Context has released a Beta version of the EAC XML DTDs, Schemas, Tag Library, and other documentation and has requested feedback from interested individuals and organizations.
Here is the official announcement. Please note that it is thick with terminology that is specific to the field and is difficult for non-software developers to read:
The Ad Hoc Working Group on Encoded Archival Context (EAC) is pleased to announce the release of the Beta version of EAC.
Encoded Archival Context (EAC) is an ongoing initiative within the international archival community to design and implement a prototype standard based on Extensible Markup Language (XML) for encoding descriptions of record creators. The primary developers of this prototype standard are members of the international archival community. The description of individuals, families, and organizations that create records is an essential component of the preservation of the documentary evidence of human activity. Identifying record creating entities; recording the names or designations used by and for them; and describing their essential functions, activities, and characteristics, and the dates and places they were active is an essential component of the management of archival records. Creator description facilitates both access to and interpretation of records.
The maintenance site for EAC is http://www.iath.virginia.edu/eac/.
The authoritative version of EAC Beta is in the form of an XML DTD. Alternatively, a W3C Schema and a Relax NG Schema are also available. The EAC Tag Library provides a structural overview and definitions and descriptions of elements and attributes.
The Beta release of EAC is intended for experimental usage only. Projects experimenting in the use of EAC are encouraged, and reports and suggestions and comments are welcome.
The eac-l listserv (email@example.com) will function as the primary discussion forum for EAC and its ongoing maintenance and development. Interested individuals will find instructions for subscribing to the eac-l at: http://mailman.yale.edu/mailman/listinfo/eac-l.
The EAC Tag Library will continue to be edited and expanded. The members of the archival community are encouraged to submit encoded examples to eac-l for consideration of inclusion in the Tag Library.
Ad Hoc Working Group on Encoded Archival Context
Tone Merete Bruvik (University of Bergen; EU LEAF)
Adrian Cunningham (National Archives of Australia; ISAAR)
Wendy Duff (University of Toronto)
Joanne Evans (Australian Science and Technology Centre, University of Melbourne)
Margaret Hedstrom (University of Michigan)
Hans Hofman (Information Policy Department, Ministry of the
Interior, The Netherlands)
Gunnar Karlsen (University of Bergen; EU LEAF)
Bob Krawczyk (Archives of Ontario)
Michelle Light (Northeastern University)
Gavan McCarthy (Australian Science and Technology Centre, University of Melbourne)
Per-Gunnar Ottosson (Riksarkivet, Sweden; EU LEAF; ISAAR)
Daniel Pitti (Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, University of Virginia)
Kathleen Roe (New York State Archives)
Dick Sargent (National Archives, U.K.; ISAAR)
Richard Szary (Yale University)
Anne Van Camp (RLG)
Stefano Vitali (Archivio di Stato di Firenze; ISAAR)
Katherine Wisser (Duke University)
Stephen Yearl (Yale University)