COLLECTION DESCRIPTION SCHEMAS
A simple definition of metadata is that it is 'structured data about resources'. Older forms of metadata are card catalogues, paper inventories and finding aids for item level data, and directories and yearbooks for collection level data. Newer forms of metadata are held in electronic databases, using a variety of formats or schemas to define the data held.
Collection description metadata uses structured data to record information about resources at the collection level. It can be used for resource discovery across archive, library and museum sectoral boundaries. It can also be used to support collection management.
Using a structured schema ensures that full data can be recorded for every entry, the same data elements are used for every entry, and standard terminology can be mandated for specified data elements. Users can predict the information they get from an entry. Machine searching across databases is supported through the use of the same defined elements within different databases and the use of standard terminology in specified fields.
A collection description schema is a structured set of metadata attributes which can be used to describe both physical and virtual collections of material in any format. A number of metadata schemas have now been developed.
To an archivist, a 'fonds' collection description denotes a collection that has been accumulated by an individual, business or organisation in the course of their life or work. This may be distinguished from an artificial collection, which does not originate from the same source, but consists of archives that have been brought together and described as a whole. They may, for example, be on the same subject, relate to the same geographical location or be of the same form (e.g. photographs). Archivists have developed their own metadata schema for archival documentation.