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Getting Practical with Image Metadata

One of the first things to do when planning an image collection is to determine what metadata you will need to record. Try to find answers to the following questions:
• What metadata do my users need or expect? Don’t second-guess this - ask your users what they want. It’s also worth finding out which other collections they use and like.
• What metadata do I need to manage the collection? You and your colleagues are also ‘users’ of your collection – what additional information will you need to record to help you manage your collection (e.g. location of master images, information about copyright permissions).
• What are others with similar collections doing? Identify others within your ‘community’ (e.g. subject area, profession) and find out what metadata they’re recording. They are likely to have done some research and learned some lessons from their mistakes! There may also be opportunities for you to share data with them if you adopt similar approaches.

What metadata do I already have? There is almost always some existing metadata you can use. This might be as simple as hand-written labels on envelopes or as complex as pre-existing databases or MARC cataloguing records within a library system. There might also be some metadata embedded within the digital file that you could make use of. Once you’ve identified your existing metadata, consider how it maps to the needs you identified above and decide what information you can reuse within your collection.
• What expertise can I call on? Who can contribute to your metadata? Are you going to use experienced cataloguers or subject experts – or both? There may be a need to train your cataloguers in the subject area, or to train your experts in how to catalogue consistently and efficiently. Another approach might be to get experts to provide some information and cataloguers to check it and add more. Bear in mind that the terminology used by cataloguers and experts isn’t always the same as that used and understood by collection users – so consider involving them too if you can, at least in some form of evaluation.
• How much time/money can I afford to spend on creating metadata? It takes a lot of time to create good quality metadata – typically more time than it takes to create and optimise the associated images. This is especially true if you need check facts or look up large thesauri for appropriate terminology. Your metadata may be constrained by your budget or your need to complete the collection in a hurry.

Resource: Technical Advisory Service for Images
Advice Paper
Getting Practical with Metadata
Metadata overview