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What is Metadata?

Definition and Significance
Metadata is a literal term meaning data about data.

Visit Canadian Heritage’s website to view their CCO Best Practice Guide for Digitization Projects and the Preservation of Digital Content.

Anne J. Gilliland, author of the article Setting the Stage published in Introduction to Metadata describes it is as a “frequently underspecified term that is understood in different ways by the diverse professional communities that design, create, describe, preserve and use information systems and resources.”

On the broadest scale, metadata is created by institutions that manage information and collections. Metadata’s main purpose is the description and ordering of objects but also is useful when conducting searches and retrieving information about the collection. 

Institutions such as archives, libraries, and museums all use different forms of metadata. Gilliland states that:

Did you know?

In addition to object description, metadata also refers to the context, management, processing, preservation and the use of the objects.

Metadata can exist in digital form or in hard copy form such as vertical files, card catalogues and file labels.

Metadata allows a wider range of accessibility. Users can access object information more easily by searching on databases and networked information systems. It enables researchers and staff to cross reference numerous subject fields, dates and titles for a more efficient search request. Archives, library and museums can share their collections with people across the globe.

Want to know more?  See: Resources