3 thoughts on “Managing Metadata

  1. Nice review. I share your concern that while it is critical for online collections and databases to make metadata prominently available, the same metadata can be distracting if displayed too prominently as part of a thematic exhibit. I touched on that in my blog post as well. One challenge that neither of us addressed, though, is how exhibits that only provide metadata by linking to it on a separate database page might limit the discoverability of the exhibit itself. People who search the web for items in the exhibit might easily find the database record full of metadata keywords, but fail to find the exhibit section that interprets the object as part of a broader theme or story.

    Perhaps one way to address this would be to include a metadata element in each item’s database record showing what exhibits the item appears in, with hyperlinks going there.

    Another possibility might be to include collection metadata on exhibit pages in a format that is machine-readable for search engines but that is not immediately displayed to human viewers. The problem with this is that search engines typically prioritize human-visible content, since hidden metadata can so often be dishonest or misleading. Making this work would also require exhibit builders and search engines to agree on supported standards for encoding hidden collection metadata.

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  2. Excellent points, Josh. Knowing much less about website design and web content than you do, I had trouble conceiving of as creative alternatives as you did. How might one new to web development with limited time and financial means be able to go about your recommendations? The hyperlinks option certainly appears manageable, but the machine-readable metadata sounds more challenging. Would users still have access to the machine-readable data if they wished to view it for research?

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  3. Good questions. I agree the hyperlinks option is more straightforward, and when using Dublin Core in Omeka, for instance, it would probably be perfectly appropriate to include such links in the “relation” attribute that is already provided.

    The machine readable metadata is more of an imaginative solution than a practical one at this point. My thinking was that this would just duplicate the visible metadata on the item database page as hidden metadata in the exhibit for search engines. Human users could still access the visible metadata by following a link to the database. They could also find the machine readable code itself by viewing the HTML source of the exhibit page, which most browsers allow. Actually implementing something like this is another matter, though. Google does offer guidelines for embedding machine readable “structured data” in web pages, using existing RDF or JSON-LD encoding standards — you can find their guide to this subject at https://developers.google.com/structured-data/ — but the uses they have embraced are targeted towards business , social media, and advertising rather than historical, academic, and cultural repositories. I think a fair bit of development would be necessary before this became an accessible strategy for online exhibit makers. Given that the other solution already has a practical implementation, this more complex one might not be worth the effort.

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