n. (abbr. EAC)originally an initiative to produce an XML-based standard to describe records creators, then released as a provisional standard, and later a putative overarching set of standards for encoding contextual information about archival resourcesPitti 2003, 1Encoded 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 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.Shepherd 2005, 341Given the current efforts to develop Encoded Archival Context, a standard structure for exchanging information about the creators of archival materials, it is clear that there is interest in implementing archival authority records within the archival profession.Szary 2006, 217The use of contextual information about the creators and users of archival and manuscript resources has always been a critical method for discovering and providing access to them. Traditionally, this information has been unstructured and ephemeral, being part of the knowledge that experienced staff bring to reference queries. The development of Encoded Archival Context provides a methodology and structure for recording this information about the characteristics of creators and the circumstances of creation more explicitly and in ways that it can be used to support discovery of archival and manuscript sources.Szary 2006, 225The result of this work was the development of the EAC DTD.Wisser 2011, 168The Toronto Tenets: Principles and Criteria for a Model for Archival Context Information is a document that “defines principles and criteria for designing, developing, and maintaining a representational scheme and communication structure for archival context information.” The Tenets outline the justification for a model, including a refinement of contextual information to focus on the description of creating entities. By 2008, it was believed that that refinement needed to be more explicit and the name of the standard was changed to Encoded Archival Context—Corporate Bodies, Persons and Families rather than the generic Encoded Archival Context. This was done to ensure that other contextual information, such as the description of functions, events, and concepts could be accommodated in their own standards or in already existing structures.Wisser 2011, 170It was envisioned that other contextual metadata standards could be developed under the umbrella of EAC.
The meaning of Encoded Archival Context has changed over time. The EAC initiative, formally begun in 1998, initially sought to create a document type definition (DTD) for encoding contextual information about records creators. This led to the 2004 release of a standard, EAC Beta, which was superseded by EAC-CPF after the Society of American Archivists’ EAC Working Group determined that the scope of EAC had been too narrow.Archivists have not always made a distinction between EAC and EAC-CPF. When the EAC Working Group (now disbanded) focused on producing a standard for corporate bodies, persons, and families, it issued EAC-CPF, and EAC became an acronym referring to a set of standards for contextual archival information. EAC includes EAC-CPF and may include additional standards such as EAC-F for functions.