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Visual Arts, Museums and Cultural Heritage Metadata Workshop 1997 Report


A report of the results of the metadata workshop organised by the Visual Arts Data Service in Edinburgh, March 1997 and the resulting process of review and consultation

Last updated: 6th August 1997
Authors: Catherine Grout and Tony Gill

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1. Introduction

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The Visual Arts Data Service, in partnership with the Art, Design, Architecture and Media Information Gateway, the Museum Documentation Association and the Scottish Cultural Resources Access Network, held a workshop to examine the descriptive information needed to enable the discovery of visual arts, museums and cultural heritage resources on the Internet, particularly in the form of digital images.

Metadata, the term used for descriptive information about electronic information resources, is now generally acknowledged as being vital to enable the effective retrieval of information in our increasingly-complex digital networked information environment. However, the development of standards for the creation of effective metadata has in the past been hampered by the conflicting needs of diverse disciplines. The Dublin Core initiative attempts to address this difficulty by bringing together people from diverse disciplines, in an attempt to discover "a simple set of common description elements that authors (or content managers) could embed in their documents to promote their discovery something like a catalogue card for a network resource. The term 'Dublin Core' applies to this simple core of descriptive elements."

The workshop sought to discover the main concepts required for resource description and discovery within the visual arts, museums and cultural heritage disciplines in order to:


Decide which of these are of 'core' significance

bullet Map the core set, where possible, to the existing Dublin Core elements
bullet Indicate relevant specialist standards, terminology resources, syntaxes etc.
bullet Consider problems in a Dublin Core-like approach to the remaining elements
bullet Consider issues related to introducing generic rather than subject-specific terminology's

This workshop was part of a series of five discipline-specific metadata workshops, organised by the Arts and Humanities Data Service and the UK Office for Library Networking with funding from the Joint Information Systems Committee of the Higher Education Funding Councils.

A wider context of resource discovery issues for this domain was provided in the following document which was produced in advance of the workshop. Visual Arts, Museums and Cultural Heritage Information Standards: a domain specific review of relevant standards for networked information discovery. Tony Gill, Catherine Grout and Louise Smith. This document, produced jointly by VADS and MDA personnel, helped to ensure that all participants shared a common understanding of the relevant domain-specific standards already developed.

For a list of workshop participants, a full list of briefing papers, and a summary of workshop events see 6.

1.1 Aims of this Report

In the two months which followed the workshop a detailed report was produced. The first sections included a description of the workshop program, a list of attendees and a review of the events of the workshop. The second section contained the Edinburgh Recommendations for visual arts, cultural heritage and museums metadata which were a direct response to the issues and problems raised at the workshop.

The draft report was circulated widely for comment and discussion. It was also subject to a rigorous process of review by an editorial group elected at the workshop, see 3.

This report, which is intended to represent the current position, but also to point towards issues which still need to be resolved, aims to fulfil the following requirements:


To reiterate the Edinburgh Recommendations as instrumental in raising awareness of the issues for use of the Dublin Core for resource discovery for this domain.


To present the results of the editorial and consultative process entered into by VADS.

bullet To explicate the relationship between the AHDS wide implementation of Dublin Core and the Edinburgh Recommendations, see 4.

1.2 Contributing to the continuing debate

While this report represents the current position, as there are many unresolved issues (for a summary, see 3.5), we would like to continue to invite comment on the contents of this report and its recommendations particularly from members of the visual arts, museum and cultural heritage communities.

Please e-mail responses to

Or write to:
Phill Purdy
Surrey Institute of Art and Design, University College
Falkner Road
Phone :+ 44 (0)1252 892723
Fax :+ 44 (0)1252 712925

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