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English Composition II Archival Searching for Instructors: What is Metadata?

Metadata is literally data about data. Metadata includes information about a digital file presented in a standard format. The information included in metadata can be, but is not limited to, author name, title, format/type of digital file, size of the digital file, a description of the file, a transcript of the written portions of a digital file, the language of the information in the digital file, the running time of the audio/video file, copyright information and more.

One of the most common standard formats for metadata is called Dublin Core. There are 15 elements in Dublin Core that can be used to describe a digital file. Examples of these 15 elements can be found here. It is likely that descriptions of the digital files and objects in a digital collection will be described using Dublin Core. Remember that even though the metadata may look different between Archives, the descriptions will be formatted in the same way across that Archive. Most of the time, metadata can be found clicking on a digital file, or by clicking on a link to more information about that digital file.

For more on metadata, see especially pages 1-3 of this document from the NISO.