Because good research needs good data

Archival Metadata

Wendy Duff & Marlene van Ballegooie, University of Toronto

Published: May 2006

Archivists and records managers have always been metadata experts. Archivists create finding aids, file lists, inventories, registers, catalog records, calendars of correspondence, published repository guides, and file plans. Records managers also capture metadata about their organisation's records in their records systems and related tools.

All of these products of description contain recordkeeping metadata - descriptive information about the content, context and form of records.

This type of metadata has long been used by researchers to identify, locate and interpret records. Although archivists and record managers have always been in the business of metadata, only recently have they begun to work together to develop standards and tools that ensure the appropriate metadata is captured and maintained across time and domain.

The purpose of this instalment is to provide an introduction to archival metadata and its potential in supporting the preservation and reuse of digital data and information. It will then explain some of the ways in which archival metadata may be able to support preservation requirements, highlight a number of key initiatives, and review prospects for the future.

Download the Archival Metadata chapter (pdf)

Key Points

  • Overview of the various metadata captured by archivists and records managers.
  • Overview of archival description techniques.
  • Overview of Encoded Archival Description (EAD).
  • Overview of ISO Records Management Metadata.
  • Automated Metadata Extraction.
  • Applying Records Management Models to Non-bureaucratic Environments.