Dublin Core Collection Description
Proposed Term : Provenance

Dublin Core Collection Description Working Group
Date Issued:
Is Replaced By:
Not applicable
Latest Version:
Status of Document:
This is a DCMI Working Draft.
Description of Document: This document presents a proposal from the Dublin Core Collection Description Working Group for a new element refinement, provenance.


Name provenance
Label Provenance
Definition A statement of any changes in ownership and custody of the resource since its creation that are significant for its authenticity, integrity and interpretation.
Comment The statement may include a description of any changes successive custodians made to the resource.

The provenance of a digital object:

This file was created on 28 August 2002 by transformation from a TIFF image. The original TIFF image was purchased from the University of Sometown, Department of Special Collections and Archives in November 2001.

The provenance of a physical object:

The volume was presented to John Smith by Jones and Company on the occasion of his retirement from the company in 1888, and was located in Smith's private library until 1895, when it was sold to Wilson Booksellers of Liverpool. It was purchased for the National Library at auction in Manchester in June 1899.

The provenance of a collection:

The Smith collection was held by the Smith family in the library at Smith Hall. Letters written by John Smith and sent to Tom Jones remained in the custody of Jones until his death in 1966 when they were returned to Smith. The Smith collection was presented to the University Library as a gift by James Smith on 5 May 1973.
Type of term Element refinement
Term qualified Description, Dublin Core Metadata Element Set, v1.1 [dc:description]
Why needed

Information about changes in the ownership or custody of a collection may be important in helping a user to select a resource and/or, having selected a resource, to interpret the resource.

Working Group support See the mailing list archives of the WG, especially Jan 2004 and Feb 2004.
Proposed status Recommended
Related DCMI terms None.
Related non-DCMI terms

The International Standard for Archival Description (ISAD(G)), Second Edition (2000) is a descriptive standard for archival records. It can be applied to units of description at any level from the collection (or fonds) to the individual item, and includes two related elements:

  • 3.2.3 Archival history

    Purpose: To provide information on the history of the unit of description that is significant for its authenticity, integrity and interpretation.

    Rules: Record the successive transfers of ownership, responsibility and/or custody of the unit of description and indicate those actions, such as history of the arrangement, production of contemporary finding aids, re-use of the records for other purposes or software migrations, that have contributed to its present structure and arrangement.

  • 3.2.4 Immediate source of acquisition

    Purpose: To identify the immediate source of acquisition or transfer.

    Rules: Record the source from which the unit of description was acquired and the date and/or method of acquisition if any or all of this information is not confidential.

ISAD(G) does not itself provide a machine-readable binding. The proposed term would be used to capture information recorded in both of these ISAD(G) elements.

The Encoded Archival Description (EAD) DTD is a standard for encoding archival finding aids using SGML or XML. It includes two XML elements:

  • <custodhist> Provenance

    Information about the chain of ownership of the materials being described, before they reached the immediate source of acquisition. Both physical possession and intellectual ownership can be described, providing details of changes of ownership and/or custody that may be significant in terms of authority, integrity, and interpretation.

  • <acqinfo> Acquisition Information

    The immediate source of the materials being described and the circumstances under which they were received. Includes donations, transfers, purchases, and deposits.

These are XML elements, not RDF properties. The proposed term would be used to capture information recorded in both of these EAD elements.

DSpace is a digital library system to capture, store, index, preserve, and redistribute the intellectual output of a university's research faculty in digital formats. The Dublin Core-based DSpace metadata schema includes an element refinement:

  • dspace:provenance

    Definition: The history of custody of the item since its creation, including any changes successive custodians made to it.

The SIMILE project has developed RDF bindings for DSpace metadata, and an RDF property is described in http://web.mit.edu/simile/www/resources/history-harmony/history-design.pdf. However the DC CD WG expressed some concern about the persistence of URIs owned by DSpace.

Impact on applications If existing DC applications for collection-level description capture this data, they probably do so as part of the value of a dc:description element. The introduction of a distinct term allows the metadata creator to separate this subset of information from the description of the scope and content of the collection. As the proposed term is defined as a refinement of dc:description, a statement using the proposed term can be "dumbed-down" to a statement using a dc:description element.
About the proposers

The term is proposed by the Dublin Core Collection Description Working Group. One of the primary aims of the WG is the development of a Dublin Core Application Profile (DCAP) for collection-level description, i.e. for the description of a collection as a resource, rather than the description of the individual items that make up that collection.

Records of the activity of the WG are available in the mailing list archives.

The current draft of the Collection Description Application Profile is available at http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/metadata/dcmi/collection-application-profile/

Changes made in this version

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Metadata associated with this resource: http://dublincore.org/documents/collection-provenance/index.shtml.rdf