Metadata Matters

This blog explores the importance of metadata and Topy’s capacity to collect metadata for sources photographed by the researcher.

Metadata is descriptive information about a source that allows us to locate it in databases. It provides context for the resource and makes it discoverable. For more on metadata, watch Greer Martinand Anna Neatrour, “Using Metadata to Describe Digital Content,” (Digital Public Library of America, 2015). 

Tropy is desktop software that researchers can download to organize and describe the photos that they take in archives or that they download from digital archives. It offers several metadata templates to make the items discoverable for the researcher’s own work. Scroll to the bottom to see the metadata fields created about items from my kitchen that I digitzed.

The Tropy Correspondence metadata pane includes the following categories:

Title – The researcher should create a title convention that makes like items easy to find.  Titles typically include terms that describe the item. If there are numerous items, a title convention should be adopted.

Author – The author or creator should include the creator of the original item. For my kitchen items, except for the child’s rubric, I have included myself as the photographer.

[Recipient – This is included in the generic/correspondence template and is important if you are organizing correspondence. I used the generic template in Tropy.]

Date – The date of the original item should be included in ISO format for searchability. This format is searchable across databases.

Type – It is important to indicate whether the item is a letter, a photograph, a pamphlet, or some other material that has been captured as a digitized image.

Archive – It is important to record where the digitized image came from. Researchers will not want to hunt down all this information when it comes time to write and create footnotes. Tropy allows you to keep it with your digital image and permits you to create metadata in bulk so you don’t have to enter this for each item separately.

Collection, Box, and Folder are all important markers in citations for archival materials. Tropy helps researchers keep this information organized with the items that are photographed.

Identifier – This is important because it can help the researcher relocate an item at an archive later, or the researcher can ask an archivist to find an item.

Rights – This is important because as researchers move along in the writing process, they need to be aware of whether or not they can use an item.  This helps them keep track of rights statements from digital archives as well as rights statements that they sign at various archives.

Additional fields that might be useful to keep track of include the location of the original item, event, themes or events that the item is connected to, important parts of your workflow (like whether or not an item has been transcribed or read), and other archives’ identifiers.  Customized metadata panes and tags can be used to keep track of these additional fields.

Cereal in Bowl in Tropy, for Digitizing My Kitchen Project, 2022.
Cereal in Measuring Cup in Tropy, for Digitizing My Kitchen Project, 2022.
Child’s Project Rubric on Refrigerator in Tropy, for Digitizing My Kitchen Project, 2022.
Coffee Pot in Tropy, for Digitizing My Kitchen Project, 2022.
Oven Pad in Tropy, for Digitizing My Kitchen Project, 2022.

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