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Wayne State University

Aim Higher

Apr 10 / Joan Beaudoin

Metadata Matters

Last week when I was at the Visual Resources Association’s annual conference, I was struck by the number of sessions that had metadata as their main theme. Even in a number of sessions that did not address the topic of metadata directly, the dependence on the availability of metadata was clear. As someone who has been a strong advocate for all things metadata, it was rewarding to see that metadata has finally come into its own. Metadata does matter.

Metadata has multiple uses beyond its original function of description (and by extension retrieval). For example, I have just begun working on different ways of visualizing the contents from the Henry Ford (THF) collections. This involves working with the metadata records associated with many thousands of items they hold. As I peered into the datasets THF so kindly provided, I started thinking about the various ways that the metadata could be used to examine their holdings. The metadata recorded for these items can be used to show where the collection’s contents were created (e.g., Detroit, MI; Boston, MA; Paris, France; etc.), what types of items are in the collection (e.g., furniture, clothing, photographs, etc.) and the proportional holdings of these items, what materials were used (e.g., silver, paper, steel, glass, etc.), and the dates associated with their creation and, or publication (e.g., 1820, 19th century, 1920, 1953, etc.).

These sorts of analyses undertaken with the basic  metadata description of collection holdings offer a new way of looking at cultural heritage collections. What this offers collection managers (and others) is a completely different view onto their collections. While examining where items may have been made may not seem important, if you are a cultural heritage institution trying to preserve a representative example of what a particular culture has produced, visualizing holdings based on place of production will show collection strengths and areas ripe for potential collection development.

Facets of knowledge recorded for items held in a collection offer an intriguing glimpse into cultural institutions and our cultural legacy. I am looking forward to what comes out of this project. In the process, I am giving metadata a much deserved tip of my hat.

Mar 26 / Joan Beaudoin

Hello world!

Just a short post about this blog. Bear with me as I work through the various features and options of the blog. I will go through a section of two each time I post. Welcome!

Mar 26 / Joan Beaudoin

Current Projects

Ever wonder what faculty do when they aren’t teaching in the classroom (or online, as is has become the norm for me), preparing course materials or teaching? This post will give you a glimpse into that world.

  1. This morning while I drank my tea to clear the cobwebs, I read and answered emails from students, publishers, administrators and faculty colleagues.
  2. I downloaded Skype in preparation for a meeting with several colleagues about a book on artists’ archives that we have been co-authoring. I haven’t yet been able to get Skype to recognize that, yes, indeed there is a network connection. Since I have other more pressing things to do, I will come back to this later.
  3. Since I teach online I checked Blackboard to see if anyone has questions or if other issues that have come to light.
  4. I wrote this post.
  5. I have a bit of grading to do, and these assignments will take about an hour to grade and for me to post the grades and return the items to their rightful authors.
  6. Next week I am moderating and providing an introductory talk to a session on information visualization for cultural heritage data at the Visual Resources Association’s annual conference in Providence, RI. I will spend an hour or so working on the presentation. I hope to get through the section dealing with the basic kinds of information visualizations today so that I can move on to the introductions for the presenters tomorrow.
  7. I had a paper accepted to the DigCurrV International Conference and so I will work on edits to that document based on the reviewers’ comments. This will probably be limited to around an hour of writing.
  8. Reading also figures in for at least an hour of my day. I have several new areas that I am looking into and so I am trying to absorb as much as I can through the literature on the topics I am working on.
  9. Recently I began to examine how information visualization could be used to examine collection data from museums. A local museum downloaded some of their data and I am looking forward to seeing what I can discover. Hopefully there will be some time at the end of the day for me to take a look at the data again.
  10. Of course the never-ending supply of emails will distract me throughout the day much like those cute little tribbles (you know, those little fuzzy cooing creatures from Star Trek?).

There you have it, my day in a nutshell. Since today is Tuesday, I will go for a walk with a friend and my dog Bailey. I try not to sit at my computer for 12 hours a day, at least not every day of the week, and this is one way that I force myself to get up and move.