Cornelius Van Vorst, ca.1620; 
Jersey City Free Public Library; Grover Cleveland Political Cartoon; 
Grover Cleveland Birthplace Historical Site Collection Peter Lee, former slave, ca.1880; 
Hoboken Historical Photographs Collection; Farm Map of Hillsboro, Somerset County, 1860; 
Historical Maps of New Jersey Collection; Bathing Beauties, 1890-1930; 
American Labor Museum/Botto House National Landmark Collection; Flag Salute, 1950; 
Seabrook Farms Collection;
Creating Metadata

Simply put, metadata is "data about data." Metadata is the information used to describe, manage and access resources. Everyone is familiar with metadata. We use metadata to locate a resource in a library or museum catalog, such as a book about the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. Typing "pine barrens" in a search screen on the organization's online catalog page will retrieve books, videos, etc. about the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. From the list of resources, you might select the book, A Piney's Story. Since "pine barrens" doesn't appear in the title, how does the computer know that (a) this book is about the Pine Barrens or (b) that this resource is a book and not a video or a photograph?

Someone created fields of information about the subject ("Pine Barrens") and the format ("book") that were indexed and retrieved by your search when you looked for a book about the Pine Barrens.

How do you create this fielded information, or metadata, for a digital collection?

A database is generally designed that corresponds to a metadata schema. A metadata schema is a formal representation of fields (or "data elements" of information about a resource that can be documented as an XML schema. XML is a web-based syntax for expressing information that can be used to validate metadata representations of objects, or records, to insure that they are formatted correctly and consistently.

There are many metadata schemas, particularly to support descriptive information, which is information that describes an object sufficiently for a user to perform core information seeking tasks (FISO):
  • Find: Can the user find a resource, based on meaningful criteria or "data elements," such as title, subject and format?
  • Identify: Can the user identify what she has found? (e.g., this is a book about the Pine Barrens)
  • Select: If multiple resources are identified, can the end user select the resource that corresponds most closely with his information needs?
  • Obtain: Can the user retrieve the digital image and/or view the original object in the owning library, archive or museum (e.g., display a digital image, view the original manuscript in the archive or check out the book from the library?)
These core user needs were identified by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, as part of the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records: Final Report (1988)

In addition to descriptive information, collection managers, curators and digital preservationists need information about the formats and condition of analog resources and the technical specifications of digital master files so that they can manage resources for long-term availability to users. Rights information that documents the identity of copyright holder, the current owner of the resource, and any restrictions on use of resources is also critical for long-term availability.

The New Jersey Digital Highway utilizes a shared metadata creation platform and database, which provides searchable metadata records for the New Jersey Digital Highway collection.

NJDH's metadata is METS based. METS (Metadata Encoding and Transmission Standard) is an international standard that collects and packages information on the descriptive, technical, administrative and rights aspects of each resource. Very few fields are required in the NJDH METS implementation, but you can utilize as many available fields as you wish by creating a metadata template for your organization.

To understand metadata, particularly as it is utilized within the New Jersey Digital Highway, the following documents are provided:
  1. Understanding Metadata PDF File by Grace Agnew, Rutgers University Libraries, provides an overview of metadata and the metadata design and implementation process.
  2. Metadata Guide PDF File by Rhonda Marker, Monographic Metadata Librarian, Rutgers University Libraries, which defines and gives examples for each data element.
  3. Workflow Management System (WMS) Guide PDF File by Kalaivani Ananthan, WMS Application Manager, Rutgers University Libraries, takes you step-by-step through the WMS using screen shots.

Creating metadata for your project requires a cataloging workflow that involves coordination with the collection owner, digital project manager and the metadata team. Before you begin creating metadata, you want to be sure you have a good understanding of metadata concepts, principles and technologies, as provided in the documents above. If you are a first time metadata creator, you will also receive training from the NJDH Metadata team.

Your next step will be to analyze your existing collection to prepare it for cataloging and to develop your in-house metadata team. NJDH is currently working on an application to provide a search and retrieval screen specific to an organization. NJDH participating organizations will be able to create digital files for their photographs and other artifacts, catalog them using the web-based Workflow Management System and provide access to only their collections, via a search screen attached to their own organizational web page.

Participating in the New Jersey Digital Highway is a good way to get started with digitizing and with metadata!

Digitizing Collections   Sharing with Users
Digitizing Collections
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