Developing and Sustaining the Northwest Digital Archives
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.