Recently, we have received many questions about metadata. Most of the inquiries about metadata revolve around two questions – What is metadata and why is it important. The purpose of this article is to discuss whether metadata is part of an electronic record and if so why.
So, what is metadata? Metadata is the information attached to a record that gives context to the record. In other words, metadata is data about data which can be created by systems or people. In electronic records management, metadata may describe who the title of a publication is, where a video was shot, and why a report has a security classification. If present, metadata is considered a part of the electronic record. Metadata must stay attached even if the record is relocated to a new place. If an electronic record is stripped of its metadata, it is considered an incomplete record.
So, why is metadata important? Metadata shows whether a record is authentic or not.
For example, the above image is a photo from TSLAC’s Texas Digital Archive. To the right of the photo is metadata containing information on the title of the document, citation information and item identifier. In addition, the metadata contains copyright information, the date range of the creation, source information, and the date the photo was digitized. If someone looked at this picture with its metadata, one can trust the authenticity of the photo.
In summary, metadata is part of electronic records which are born digitally. Paper records scanned into digital form will have metadata, created by the system, attached to it. Stripping the metadata from an electronic record is like sending an email without a sender, creation date, or subject line. It is impossible to authenticate the validity of the information. So, it is crucial for metadata to be part of an electronic record to give the record context and to authenticate the information.
For more information about metadata then please refer to the following links:
- “What is metadata and why is it as important as the data itself?”: https://www.opendatasoft.com/2016/08/25/what-is-metadata-and-why-is-it-important-data/
- Metadata Types & Functions – Marcia Lei Zeng: http://marciazeng.slis.kent.edu/metadatabasics/types.htm
- What is Metadata, and Why is it Important?| M-Files Blog: http://www.m-files.com/blog/what-is-metadata-and-why-is-it-important/
- “What is metadata and why is it as important as the data itself?”: https://bigdata-madesimple.com/what-is-metadata-and-why-is-it-as-important-as-the-data-itself/
- Metadata in Electronic Records Management – NARA: https://records-express.blogs.archives.gov/2016/11/21/metadata-in-electronic-records-management/