Wednesday, December 21, 2016

We Are Surrounded by Metadata--But It’s Still Not Enough

We Are Surrounded by Metadata--But It’s Still Not Enough. Teresa Soleau. In  Metadata Specialists Share Their Challenges, Defeats, and Triumphs. Marissa Clifford. The Iris. October 17, 2016.
     Many of their digital collections end up in their Rosetta digital preservation repository. Descriptive and structural information about the resources comes from many sources, including the physical materials themselves as they are being reformatted. "Metadata abounds. Even file names are metadata, full of clues about the content of the files: for reformatted material they may contain the inventory or accession number and the physical location, like box and folder; while for born-digital material, the original file names and the names of folders and subfolders may be the only information we have at the file level."

A major challenge is that the collection descriptions must be at the aggregate level because of the volume of materials, "while the digital files must exist at the item level, or even more granularly if we have multiple files representing a single item, such as the front and back of a photograph". The questions is how to provide useful access to all the digital material with so little metadata. This can be overwhelming and inefficient if the context and content is difficult to recognize and understand.  And "anything that makes the material easier to use now will contribute to the long-term preservation of the digital files as well; after all, what’s the point of preserving something if you’ve lost the information about what the thing is?"

Technical information about the files themselves are fingerprints that help verify the file hasn’t changed over time, in addition to tracking what has happened to the files after entering the archive. Software preservation, such as with the Software Preservation Network, is now being recognized as an important effort. Digital preservationists are working out who should be responsible for preserving which software. There are many preservation challenges yet to be solved in the years ahead.

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