Descriptive metadata

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Descriptive metadata is information that describes the content of a resource. It is the "aboutness" of the content. For example, the name of something is often descriptive, such as "tiger". If I asked you to tell me more about the tiger, you might say that "it has stripes, has 4 legs and a tail, and lots of teeth". That would be more descriptive metadata.

When generating descriptive metadata, we make use of controlled vocabularies, including content in our local MADS database.

Read more about our item-level Current Descriptive Metadata and our Descriptive Metadata Workflows.

Collection-level descriptive metadata is captured in Collection_Information and EADs.

Procedures and Policies

Metadata_Movement for content being digitized in Digital Services

Uploading MODS

A List of Our Standardized Descriptive Metadata Fields

How to generate item-level metadata from EADs

Creating collection xml file

Linking out from EADS


Undergraduate Research Projects

General Guidelines

  • Never abbreviate, especially states and months.
  • Do not use periods at the end of fields (except it is okay in ‘Notes’ field, because that information is administrative metadata only, not to be used in the final metadata
  • Be consistent with your terminology in descriptions and titles; for instance, if you start using “railroad track” don’t switch over to “train track”
  • Don’t be afraid to take a second and look up information online, such as hunting down the county appropriate to a city (especially for Alabama counties; this is less important for large cities out of state) or confirming the spelling of a proper noun (like the name of a well-known person or a place name)
  • Metadata for all collections are entered using the same template in EXCEL. Not all of the fields will be used for one collection. Fields (columns) in the EXCEL template may be hidden to facilitate data entry. By hiding fields, the template specifications can be made for one type of object (manuscripts, photographs, audio recordings, etc.). This is specially helpful when a collection only has one type of object. For collections that contain a variety of types, it is best to use the template without any hidden fields.

  • Generating Titles
    • Punctuation should be removed at the end of name, title, subtitle, partNumber (unless ending in a question mark or an abbreviation)
    • Every entry has to have a title (not “Untitled”)
  • Names see MADS
    • Do not enter "creator" value if a name has been entered into another creator field (such as "Sender")
    • Do not enter "unknown" if creator/date/etc is unknown; leave blank
    • MarcRelator roles need to be added after each creator name, prefaced by “#4” so the script will be able to pull them out. For example: Glover, F. L. #4 compiler
  • Subjects
    • Copy sender and receiver names to LCSH column, followed by "--Correspondence"
    • If not significant, do not include names in subject headings
    • If not significant material, do not spend more than 5 minutes assigning subjects or description
    • Subjects should be "about" the content
  • Generating Descriptions
  • Dates: all dates associated with the publishing, release, issuance, or creation of the material. Do not use square brackets such as [1856].
    • If no date can be found, please don’t put text in the date field (“undated” or some such just causes problems)
    • All dates should follow w3cdtf format
      • yyyy
      • yyyy-mm
      • yyyy-mm-dd
    • Two dates may be used to represent a span of time.
      • The dates may be separated with a hyphen or a semicolon.
      • A span may represent any two dates including a decade, a century, a span of months, and inferred dates such as “not before 1852.”
    • Qualifiers may be used with single dates.
      • An entry for an approximate date begins with the abbreviation for circa, “ca.”
      • A questionable date is followed by a question mark.
  • Types: We need a value in the “type” column that is correct for that item. This value translates to the typeOfResource field in the MODS. The only values that can be in that field are in this case-sensitive list:
    • text
    • cartographic
    • notated music
    • sound recording-musical
    • sound recording-nonmusical
    • sound recording
    • still image
    • moving image
    • three dimensional object
    • software, multimedia
    • mixed material
  • Born Digital or Reformatted? If the content is incoming digital (we did not digitize it from analog), please put “digital” in the notes field, as this gets a different digitalOrigin value (“born digital” instead of “reformatted digital”)
  1. MODS Data Dictionary
  2. Input Guidelines -- check for more recent versions under the Metadata Creation heading. Here you will also find specific information for various types of materials, such as legal materials, receipts, railroad pamphlets, etc...

Older information:

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