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Digitizing Collections: Metadata

A guide for digitizing collections for access and preservation.


  1. Planning 
  2. Selection
  3. Digitizing materials
  4. Processing files, creating master and access files
  5. Metadata creation or re-purposing
  6. Digital preservation of master files
  7. Presentation of access files in an online content management platform


What is metadata?

Metadata is structured information about an object. It is a way to make the content of digital files findable and accessible. It can also be used to keep track of digitization, preservation and administrative information.

As part of creating digital collections you will be identifying your own metadata guidelines and ideally creating documentation for these. This will help guide and clarify the work of creating metadata for your collections and most importantly will help to make your digital collections discoverable and understandable. There are many great example of guidelines and best practices online - see the sidebar for some examples.


3 types of metadata

  1. Descriptive metadata - describes the content of an object for discovery and identification
  2. Structural metadata - indicates how compound objects are put together (how the pages are ordered etc.)
  3. Administrative metadata - includes information to help manage the resource - when and how it was created, file type, who can access it. Subsets of this are 
    • Rights management metadata
    • Preservation metadata
    • Technical metadata

It is a common practice for digital collections is to use descriptive metadata with the addition of a couple administrative metadata fields: rights, digital file format and often a URL identifier. You can use metadata fields to keep track of digitization, preservation or other administrative information but these would not be shared publicly because they do not enhance access or use.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.