Why Metadata Matters

Metadata is all the data that describes the item in a collection. Who created it, when it was created, and what it is are all examples. Metadata makes it easier for the item to be found by its potential audience, and consistent metadata makes comparisons easier.

Think of collection of maps. Consistently specifying the map maker, the date of a map’s publication, and its coverage area makes them easily identifiable. If you wanted to compare maps of Virginia from the eighteenth century, you could search or filter the map collection by a coverage area of Virginia and a publication date between 1700 and 1799. Similarly, you could examine a map maker’s stylistic choices and consistency by filtering the collection by one map maker at a time.

To practice creating metadata, I created a collection of images of objects in my kitchen. Creating metadata forced me to think through how someone interested in the object would look for it as well as who owned the rights to an object. You can see my images and the metadata I added in these screenshots.

Given that most of my pictures are of type “PhysicalObject,” it could also be helpful to add more metadata related to the object. We could add “Dimension,” “Weight,” “Texture,” and more to help convey what the object is physically like. This metadata could also help users find objects of a specific size or with a similar sensory experience.