The Wonderful World of Metadata

Welcome back to another exciting addition of: Metadata!

Last time I posted about metadata I gave a brief description of what metadata actually is (basically, data about data. A specific description of the data you are putting up for viewing on the web) as well as information about XML (eXtensible Markup Language) EAD (Encoded Arvhical Descriptions) and DTD (Document Type Definition) – and how they all pertain to my job and what I am slowly learning.

As I dive into this world, one important tool that I have begun to use much more frequently is Dublin Core. Dublin Core is basically a way for people like me in my line of work to describe an image/move/collection/etc so that you can easily search for it and find it online. For example: If I was to put an image that I took of a Civil War battlefield here in Arkansas, would you search for “Nicolette Lloyd’s pictures” to find this image? Probably not. You may not know me and unless you knew that I took this picture, you probably would be searching for “Civil War Battlefields” or “Battlefields” or even just “Arkansas”. You may know specifics like “1862, March” or even specific names and locations, all which narrow down your search. You would not be able to find this image, however, if I didn’t put the correct identifiers for the search engines (like Google) you may use to find this image. Dublin Core is made up of 15 elements (Theme, Subject, Date, etc…) that improve document indexing and expand the catalog information for search engine programs. May seem complicated, but Dublin Core is actually pretty easy, as long as you use the mindset that someone who may not be familiar with the terms that you personally are familiar with is going to be searching for this item.

Test Example: Here is a link to my personal Omeka site (which is a site that uses Dublin Core – its a great site to put up a quick exhibit and showcase items of any kind in a collection for the world to view online) which is a work in progress.

If you click on any image in the site you will see the picture, and below that you will see the element boxes that have been filled out specific to the data. An important thing to remember with Dublin Core is to remain CONSISTENT. I decided to set “date” as the date that I took the picture. It is not recommended to change “date” to the date of the battle, for instance, midway through the list of items. If you want the date to be the date of the battle, no problem. Keep it that way from beginning to end, however. Little things like this need to be addressed so that you tell the entire story every time you put something online in Dublin Core format.

I have found that there are a few elements that are difficult for me to fill in, and you will see that all 15 of the element boxes are not represented with my personal site. Maybe there is no specific answer or term that can be placed in those boxes – or maybe I haven’t found the professional way of addressing them. Either way, its better to leave them blank than to put something that could confuse the process in these boxes.

Metadata may seem like a difficult and strange world, but the more experience I get in this field and better I feel about the shift into the digital world for archives and museums.

Next week I should be finishing up my Life Interrupted editing, so hopefully I can get that going and eventually posted on the UALR CAHC YouTube account and then here on this blog! Stay tuned…

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