Why Metadata Matters

  • What features of the digital objects does the metadata describe?
  • What features does it not describe?
  • What questions does the metadata allow you to ask?
  • What questions does it not allow you to ask?

In a different approach to reviewing ARTstor, I will examine how well the database utilizes metadata. ARTstor’s metadata, helpfully, provides the basic facts about a piece: creator, title, and work type being the obvious three. It also provides the date that the piece was created, its measurements, its location, to which collection is belongs, its source, and its rights usage. All of this information is useful for classifying the piece, yes, but it is most important for the viewer. The one detail it includes that is probably for ARTstor’s benefit more than the person accessing the page is the ID Number.

Unfortunately, the ARTstor’s metadata doesn’t contain “subject,” which I consider to be a useful category. Maybe the subject of a painting is tedious and difficult to document, yes, but it’s one of the best ways to filter results. It’s also disappointing that the metadata only contains information about the analogue image–not the digital. So, for example, I don’t know who scanned it, or even if the image was scanned. If it’s a sculpture, I don’t know who took its photo. I wish that there were information on the strictly digital aspects of these images.

Based on these observations, I conclude that the metadata of ARTstor is descriptive, despite the categories it lacks. The metadata allows us to ask questions about the piece as it exists in the physical world: its creator, its location, its date. However, if I want to get meta (not metadata) about the image and its digital copy, there is no information there. Therefore, the metadata doesn’t allow me to ask questions about the digital image, the one I’m viewing on my screen. I think this distinction says something about what kind of information ARTstor values.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.