Developing and Sustaining the Northwest Digital Archives


  • Alan Kevin Cornish Washington State University Libraries
  • Trevor James Bond Washington State University Libraries


The Northwest Digital Archives is a union database of Encoded Archival Description (EAD) finding aids from institutions in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Alaska, and Montana. The purpose of the NWDA is to make information about collections of primary sources widely accessible to researchers over the internet. This article will explore the selection and development of the NWDA database, the creation of tools to associate digital objects with EAD/XML documents, and the methods employed by the technical staff at the Washington State University Libraries to expose metadata contained in the NWDA to Google (and aggregators) with Google Sitemaps and the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH). Through the analysis of web site use statistics, we realized that most users are locating individual NWDA finding aids directly from Google and other search engines. While not entirely surprising, the implications of this when combined with three rounds of usability testing led to major revisions of the NWDA website and finding aid stylesheet. The article concludes with a discussion the model developed to sustain the NWDA after the end of National Endowment of the Humanities funding.

Author Biographies

Alan Kevin Cornish, Washington State University Libraries

Al Cornish works as the Head, Library Systems, at the Washington State University Libraries. He provides support for major digital repository efforts, including the Northwest Digital Archives and the WSU Research Exchange systems. He previously worked as an automation librarian at the National Library of Medicine and at the Texas A&M University Libraries. His research interests include: XML and multimedia databases; digital repositories; and, access services-related technologies.

Trevor James Bond, Washington State University Libraries

Trevor James Bond is Special Collections Librarian in the Department of Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections at the Washington State University Libraries and an Instructor for the World Civilizations Program in the Department of General Education at WSU. Trevor Bond received his Master's in Library and Information Science (MLIS, 1998) with a specialization in Archives and Preservation Management and a Masters in Ancient History (MA,1994) at UCLA. In 2005, he received tenure at Washington State University and a sabbatical leave to work on ephemeral popular culture of the 18th and 19th centuries at the Bodleian Library in Oxford. Since 2003, Trevor has regularly taught a section of General Education 110, World Civilizations to 1500. He passionately loves teaching about ancient cultures, and his course emphasizes reading primary sources and lively discussions of issues that touch on the human condition, such as social hierarchies, love, and the afterlife. He encourages his students to develop and support their own positions through the thoughtful analysis of evidence. Trevor also regularly collaborates with colleagues in English, Fine Arts, and History to introduce archival research and print history into undergraduate and graduate courses. He has collaborated with regional colleagues on 10 grants to create a series of digital collections at WSU. Most recently, he has worked as part of a team to develop the Northwest Digital Archives (NWDA) a web searchable EAD/XML database funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities that allows users to search finding aids for thousands of collections from 25 research institutions in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Alaska and Montana. He has presented widely at professional conferences and published articles on enhancing access to special collections. His article "Streaming Audio from African-American oral history collections" was selected as the outstanding paper, 2005 journal OCLC Systems & Services International Digital Library Perspectives and he was the recipient of the 2005 Distinguished Friends and Alumni Award from the College of Liberal Arts, Washington State University.