5.1 Desk Research

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A significant amount of work has been done in relation to aggregations of metadata and some organisations have already aggregated metadata for different types of media. A review of the literature is provided in Appendix A – Desk Research and key points are highlighted here.
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5.1.1 Importance of Metadata

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Metadata about images and time-based media may contain descriptive information that helps users to discover content as well as technical and administrative data (e.g. related to creation, quality control, rights and preservation) that help rights holders to better ‘manage and exploit their assets’ (The Technology Strategy Board [i]). Technical and administrative data may facilitate management, tracking, migration and re-use of digital assets. Clearly, metadata is valuable only if it is persistently linked to the content it describes (Nicolas et al, 2009) – whether this means that it is stored separately or as part of the digital object described.
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5.1.2 Why aggregate metadata?

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Aggregating metadata provides a discovery mechanism for content that is distributed. This saves the user time and gives more exposure to collections many of which may be small and difficult, otherwise, to find. Aggregation may also provide opportunities for the aggregator to add value through e.g. inter alia: enhancement of metadata; provision of authentication and authorisation; facilitation of preservation; provision of personalisation and alert about a variety of sources; links to related materials which provide subject-entry points; provision of a single point of information for statistics about access and downloads (Swann and Awre (2006). In learning and teaching, aggregation presents an opportunity to provide new ways to access and present information e.g. multiple routes that are tailored to different learning styles or access to resources relevant to a topic by type of resource (Pitts and Sharp, 2003). With regard to images and time-based media, a single entry point is important because content is distributed across a large range of different types and sizes of organisation. Increased exposure not only makes it more accessible, it also increases the likelihood that it will be targeted for preservation (small organisations often cannot undertake preservation off their own bats).
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5.1.3 Uses and Users of Aggregation

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While aggregation is clearly beneficial, it is also challenging. Arms et al. (2002) and Shreeves et al. (2003) noted that variation in metadata authoring practices and consistency of metadata records challenge service providers’ abilities to build consistently searchable systems.
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5.1.4 What Are The Barriers To Sharing, Re-using And Aggregating Metadata?

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There is little written about the barriers to sharing, reusing and aggregating metadata for images and time-based media but barriers related to metadata about other types of content have been documented. Legal and cultural issues are highlighted as key barriers (e.g. McGill et al, 2008, Romer and MacMahon 2007) as is lack of time and a concern among collection owners that they lack the technical understanding or expertise to share are also important (Rogers and Barker 2007, Romer and MacMahon 2007).
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Other barriers to sharing include:
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  • Organisational issues – i.e. difficulty securing cooperation within the organisation to participate; a desire to prioritise exposure of metadata through the organisation’s own services before participating in an aggregation.
    • Trust, attribution, incentive, reputation and approbation may also important – lineage is often an important guide to quality and thus should be clear when content is accessed through an aggregation (Whitelaw 2007) but if the aggregator has a trusted reputation, this may be enough.
    • Legal issues may also be a concern – collection owners may be less concerned about rights in metadata than in content but the metadata increases the exposure of the content so raises concerns about the legal status of the content.
    • Financial – many collections have been created with project funding and while project funders often require that the content be exposed as widely as possible there is often little or no funding available beyond the project end date for sharing metadata (Rogers and Barker, 2007). In those instances, projects may be willing to participate if the effort required is minimal and if they are provided with clear guidelines on how to participate.
    • Language – aggregation is often undertaken by digital library initiatives whereas much of content in this field is generated by broadcasters and cultural heritage organisations where technical staff know nothing of the language and technology used by digital libraries.
    • Standards – requirement to comply with a specific metadata standard often deters participation either because it presents a technical or resource hurdle or because collection owners consider that compliance requires them to ‘dumb down’ their metadata.
    • Quality – poor quality metadata may not meet the needs of aggregator and users but collection owners may lack resource or incentive to improve their metadata.
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5.1.5 What can be learned from other initiatives?

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A broad range of initiatives throughout the world provide examples of how aggregations are created and managed. These provide models of possible approaches and some provide specific learning. Europeana [ii], for example, collects multimedia library, museum and archives into one digital website combined with Web 2.0 features. This project has engaged extensively with end-users and has achieved loyalty and frequency of use among them. Its strengths are considered to be the quality and authenticity of the content, guaranteed by the cultural organisations behind the service, and its openness to participation by cultural institutions. Because it delivers a variety of different types of materials, it can bring together relevant work in different formats e.g. the works of a painter along with an archive of documents related to her life. Europeana prefers to work with aggregators rather than individual collection owners of which there are a huge number. It has automated much of the process of content ingestion, in particular by developing a tool which allows aggregators to check that their metadata functions correctly and to view their metadata displayed in a dummy Europeana interface. This reveals any problems and the onus is on the aggregator to correct these before final submission. Europeana will shortly require ‘rights labelling’ of all content contributed.
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Universeum is a European network concerned with academic heritage in its broad sense. It aims at the preservation, study, access and promotion of university collections, museums, Enrichment of metadata. One of the questions being addressed in this study is whether metadata contributed to an aggregation should be enriched (enhanced) and, if so, how should that be done and by whom. Enrichment may be achieved through, for example, allowing users to enhance metadata, or incorporating into the metadata information that may be contextual within the native service (e.g. a service about a specific historical figure does not need that person’s name in the metadata – the context makes this clear). Metadata may also be enhanced indirectly by translating records into different forms or providing related information from authority files or other records describing the same item but much of this would depend on accurate matching of records which is, itself, a formidable challenge.
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1.1.6          Standards

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The desk research outlines the source and purpose of a broad range of standards currently in use to create and distribute metadata about images and time-based media. These are related to items rather than collections. As yet, there is no dominant metadata standard for describing collections, although in the last few years there has been substantial progress towards this goal [iii]. NISO has also recently released a set of guidelines for building good digital collections [iv] and UKOLN’s Collection Description Focus offers advice in this area, including a tutorial.
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[i] http://www.innovateuk.org/_assets/pdf/competition-documents/briefs/tsb_metadatavalueindigcontentcomp-final.pdf
[ii] http://www.europeana.eu/portal/
[iii] http://imlsdcc.grainger.uiuc.edu/resources.asp
[iv] http://framework.niso.org/node/5

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