Skip to Main Content

Introduction to Metadata

What is Metadata?

Metadata is information used to describe a resource such as the date a resource was created, who created it, or its format. This video provides a great introduction.

Why metadata?

The more content you create (e.g. articles, datasets, images), the more you will need to rely on good metadata to help you manage it. Why should you care about metadata?

  • Identification: metadata helps identify content without a close inspection of the object itself.
  • Discovery & retrieval: an accurate description of content helps you to find it quickly and consistently. Good descriptive metadata (the who, what, when, where) will save time when you need to find and use the content.
  • Sorting: bring together similar materials by assigning them a single category. Use controlled vocabularies and classification schemes to really harness the power of sorting by category.
  • Restrictions: earmark sensitive content and indicate restrictions on access and use.
  • Preservation: take the first step in securing the long-term survival of your content by creating good metadata for it now.
  • Management: take better control over your content. Metadata can serve as a reliable method for taking inventory and can help with administering a collection. 
  • Standards: enable the exchange of metadata by using the work of community experts rather than recreating metadata practices that already exist.

Collections without metadata are like soup cans without labels.

Big Torn Campbells Soup Can

Image credit: Andy Warhol, Big Torn Campbell’s Soup Can (Pepper Pot), 1962 The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh Founding Collection, Contribution The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

If you have a project that could benefit from metadata expertise please contact: