Of Metaphors and Metadata

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Of Metaphors and Metadata: The Importance of Metadata for the Collections of the Diplomatic Reception Rooms U.S. Department of State. Martin R. Kalfatovic. U.S. Department of State. Washington, DC. 24 May 2012.

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  • Metadata isn't really a big word, in fact, it's only 8 letters. But when you get a bunch of technical people in a room throwing around words like "RDF", SCOS, "Semantic", it can sometimes be a bit overwhelming.
  • For that reason, with a colleague, Suzanne Pilsk, we came up with a metaphor for metadata: The DC Hot Dog stand. In this case, the hot dog stand is our museum collection. It's full of things, and you maybe even think you know what's inside and how to find it.
  • But sometimes, that's not so obvious. But sometimes, that's not so obvious.
  • But when it is, you can usually understand things. Pretzels. Half smoke. Pizza.
  • But sometimes it's a little less clear. Half smoke? Beef half smoke? Beef sausage? Hot dogs? Chili dogs? They look the same, or pretty much the same. But there's some information there, metadata, which helps me tell the difference between a beef sausage and a beef half smoke.
  • Sometimes, though, the metadata is incomplete. I know what's for sale here ... but I don't know what it costs. My metadata is incomplete.
  • And then sometimes, the metadata is just wrong. These smokes obviously had a data input error.
  • So in our cultural heritage, museum, community, we have lots of things. The DRR has over 5,000 objects in its collections; the Smithsonian has, give or take, 137 million. All these things need metadata. So in our cultural heritage, museum, community. we have lots of things. The DRR has over 5,000 objects in its collections; the Smithsonian has, give or take, 137 million. All these things need metadata.
  • They need metadata not only so that you know what they are when you seem them in person, but for when they travel out onto the web. They need the metadata for search engines like Google or Bing. They need metadata so you can "like" them on Facebook and use them in educational environments. They need metadata not only so that you know what they are when you seem them in person, but for when they travel out onto the web. They need the metadata for search engines like Google or Bing. They need metadata so you can "like" them on Facebook and use them in educational environments.
  • The "Bloody Massacre" from the collections of the DRR is an object that needs metadata.
  • Coming from a library background, I might create metadata and make a 3x5 card (I don't really do that anymore!). That 3x5 card we all grew up with is a manifestation of metadata.
  • Today, a modern library or museum will have that metadata, not on a 3x5 card, but in a collections management system - such as the DRR uses.
  • Because we don't live in a world of 3x5 cards or even the just the database systems developed to supersede them, but rather in a complex world of standards and data systems, creating metadata is often the most complex, time consuming, and expensive part of moving collections from inside your walls to the greater networked and online world.
  • In 1852, the Smithsonian's first Secretary, Joseph Henry noted the importance of sending forth collections to the world. The DRR staff are moving in the same outward direction with the work now underway. In 1852, the Smithsonian's first Secretary, Joseph Henry noted the importance of sending forth collections to the world. The DRR staff are moving in the same outward direction with the work now underway.
  • Of Metaphors and Metadata

    1. 1. Of Metaphors and MetadataThe Importance of Metadata for the Collections ofthe Diplomatic Reception RoomsU.S. Department of State Martin R. Kalfatovic| Smithsonian Libraries Diplomatic Reception Rooms | U.S. State Department of State Washington, D.C., | 24 May 2012
    2. 2. Thanks toMetaphors and Silver Food TruckSuzanne PilskMetadata graphic by Jen Riley & Devin BeckerSeeing standards: a visualization of the Metadata Universe.Indiana University Librarieshttp://www.dlib.indiana.edu/~jenlrile/metadatamap/Photographshttp://www.flickr.com/photos/travelinglibrarian/ Martin R. Kalfatovic| Smithsonian Libraries Diplomatic Reception Rooms | U.S. State Department of State Washington, D.C., | 24 May 2012

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