Evaluating descriptive richness in Collection-Level Metadata

Oksana L. Zavalina, Carole L. Palmer, Amy S. Jackson, Myung Ja Han

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


When many collections are brought together in a federation or aggregation, the attributes of the original collections can become difficult to discern. Collection-level metadata has the potential to provide important context about the purpose and features of individual collections, but the qualitative aspects of collections are difficult to describe in a systematic way. This article reports on a content analysis of collection records in the Digital Collections and Content (DCC) aggregation, conducted to analyze the kinds of substantive and purposeful information represented across 202 cultural heritage collections. We found that the free-text Description field often provides more accurate and complete representation of subjects and object types than the specified fields; it consistently represents properties such as uniqueness, importance, comprehensiveness, provenance, and creator of items in digital collection, and other vital contextual information about the intentions of collectors and the value of collections for scholarly users. The results show that free-text collection metadata can be both concise and semantically rich, and can provide a valuable source of data for enhancing and customizing controlled vocabularies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)263-292
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Library Metadata
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2009


  • Descriptive metadata
  • Federated digital collections
  • Metadata aggregation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Library and Information Sciences


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