Photography Media Journal
ISSN 1918-8153

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Metadata for Image Resources

by: Tomasz Neugebauer

July 2005

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The use of image resources is increasing, and so has the need to classify, store and provide efficient and innovative methods and technologies for their presentation, searching and retrieval by the users. The World Wide Web is an increasingly popular source of information, and this is a multimodal environment where image resources form a significant part of the communication medium.

Archives and museums that hold fragile materials such as special collections of rare books, architectural drawings, paintings, photographic prints, fashions, and sculptures, are increasingly looking into digitization of their collections. The technological progress in information technologies is making these digitization efforts financially feasible for the institutions, and an expectation on the part of the public. The benefits to the research community and the public of providing access to digital collections is obvious: researchers can use networking tools such as the World Wide Web to access information that was previously only available with expensive physical travel. Holding institutions benefit from the fulfillment of a cultural imperative while ensuring digital preservation and protection of the fragile originals from deterioration through use.

Metadata for Images

There are many metadata formats to choose from that can be used for organizing, describing and providing access to image collections: Visual Resources Association (VRA) Core Categories for Visual Resources[1], Dublin Core Metadata[2], USMARC Formats for Bibliographic Data[3], Encoded Archival Description (EAD)[4], Record Export for Art and Cultural Heritage (REACH) Element Set[5], Categories for Descriptions of Works of Art (CDWA)[6] and more. Organizations facing the decision as to which standard to adopt need to consider their own particular data set as well as the need to share their collections and metadata with other institutions.

This paper presents a summary of evaluation and analysis for metadata schemas for image collections, in search for evaluation standards for metadata schemas in this domain. The theoretical foundation for image metadata is provided, since the fact that we are dealing with the visual medium is one of the known variables and the metadata schema ought to adequately capture all of the possible types of information about an instance of this medium. The information needs of image seekers are explored since the metadata schema needs to provide a topology of access to these users. Both the interoperability and compatibility of metadata schema to content-based information is considered since multidisciplinary searching is an expectation on the part of image searchers who have become accustomed to searching heterogeneous sources on the World Wide Web.

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