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VRA Core Metadata Element Set

This is a metadata standard for describing works of visual culture and the images that document them. Developed by the Visual Resources Association, the current version is VRA Core 3.0; a new version VRA Core 4.0 is now at Beta Draft stage and the XML schema is available from the VRA website. Beta testing was scheduled to take place in December 2005 and January 2006, with finalization of the schema planned for March 2006.

A work is a physical entity that exists, has existed at some time in the past, or could exist in the future. Works may be single items or consist of many parts, and might be:

  • an artistic creation (e.g. a painting or sculpture)
  • a performance, composition or literary work
  • a building or other construction in the built environment
  • an object of material culture.

An image is a visual representation of a work. It can exist in photomechanical, photographic and digital formats. In a typical visual resources collection, an image is a reproduction of the work that is owned by the cataloguing institution and is typically a slide, photograph or digital file. A visual resources collection may own several images of a given work.

In VRA Core 3.0, separate records are created for the work and image(s). One element in the elements set denotes Record Type; this defines whether it is a work or an image that is being described.

There can also be relationships between two or more works. Essential relationships exist where the described work includes the referenced work, either physically or logically within a larger to smaller context. With works that have an essential relationship, it is recommended that the Title.LargerEntity qualifier always accompany the title for the part.

An informative relationship between two works exists when the described and referenced works could stand independently and the relationship is informative but not essential either physically or logically in identifying either of the works. The link between the works should be reciprocal.

VRA Core Element Set
	record type
	id number
	style / period

Example records for an etching in a museum collection and a digital image of the etching.

<recordType> work </recordType>
<type> print </type>
<title> This is how it happened </title>
<titleVariant> s Sucedi </titleVariant>
<measurements.Dimensions> 24.5 x 35 cm </measurements.Dimensions>
<material.Medium> ink </material.Medium>
<material.Support> paper </material.Support>
<technique> etching </technique>
<technique> drypoint </technique>
<creatorPersonalName> Francisco Jose de Goya y Lucientes </creatorPersonalName>
<creator.Role> printmaker </creator.Role>
<date.Creation> ca. 1810-1814 </date.Creation>
<locationCurrentRepository> Ann Arbor (MI,USA), 
University of Michigan Museum of Art </locationCurrentRepository>
<locationCreationSite> Madrid (ESP) </locationCreationSite>
<idNumberCurrentAccession> 1977/2.15 </idNumberCurrentAccession>
<stylePeriod> Romanticism </stylePeriod>
<culture> Spanish </culture>
<subject> war </subject>
<relationPartOf> Part of Disasters of war </relationPartOf>
<description> This is how it happened is No. 47 (33)
from the series "The Disasters of War", 
4th edition, plates for the series ca. 1810-14, 1820,
4th edition was published 1906. </description>
<rights> Weber family trust <rights>

<recordType> image </recordType>
<type> digital </type>
<title> general view <title>
<measurements.Dimensions> 72 dpi </measurements.Dimensions>
<measurements.Format> = jpeg </measurements.Format>
<technique> scanning </technique>
<creator> Fred Technician </creator>
<date.Creation> 1999 </date.Creation>
<locationCurrentRepository> Ann Arbor (MI,USA),
University of Michigan Museum of Art </locationCurrentRepository>
<idNumberCurrentRepository> PCD5010-1611-1037-27 </idNumberCurrentRepository>
<idNumberCurrentRepository> 1977_2.15.jpeg </idNumberCurrentRepository>
<description> For more information, see </description>
<source> University of Michigan Museum of Art </source>
<rights> University of Michigan Museum of Art </rights>

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Content by: Ann Chapman of UKOLN.
Page last revised on: 16-Feb-2006
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