UKOLN AHDS Gathering the Jewels: Creating a Dublin Core Metadata Strategy


Gathering the Jewels [1] was established by a consortium of the following bodies: National Library of Wales, Society of Chief Librarians (Wales), National Museums and Galleries of Wales, Federation of Welsh Museums, Archives Council Wales, Royal Commission of Ancient and Historic Monuments Wales, Council of Museums in Wales, Wales Higher Education Libraries Forum and the Welsh County Archivists Group. The goal of the project was to digitise 23,000 items from approximately 190 libraries, museums and archives all over Wales and to present them on the Internet by means of a searchable database.

The Approach Taken

The nature of the project has four important consequences for the way we approach the collection of metadata:

Problems Experienced

When we first looked at the question of metadata, and came face to face with the reality of the difficulties listed above, the problem seemed massive. To make things worse, the Dublin Core elements apparently needed their own glossary to make them intelligible. These were dark days. However, things very quickly improved.

In the first place, we talked to professionals from the National Library of Wales's metadata unit, who reassured us that the Dublin Core elements could be translated into English. But more importantly than that, they showed us that the elements could be made to work for us: that there is a degree of flexibility about what many of the elements can be taken to mean; that the most important thing is to be consistent, however you interpret a particular element.

For example, there is a Dublin Core element called "Publisher". The National Library would interpret this as the organisation publishing the digital material on the Internet - i.e., us; we, on the other hand, would prefer to use it for the institution providing us with the material. Both interpretations are apparently valid, so long as they are used consistently. We also interpret the "Title" element in a way that will let us use it as a caption to the image when it is displayed on the Internet.

We also made a couple of key decisions. We were not here to catalogue 23,000 items to the Dublin Core standard. Also, the output of the whole project was to be a Web site linked to a searchable database – so the bare minimum metadata we had to collect was defined by the requirements of the Web site and search mechanisms for the database. In other words, an image appearing on a user's computer screen had to have a certain amount of information associated with it (a caption, a date, a credit to the institution that gave it to us, as well as subject and place-name keywords, etc.); any other metadata we could collect would be nice (the 'extent' or size, the 'medium', etc.) but not essential.

This was also our "Get Out Of Jail Free" card with regard to the bilingual aspects of the Web site. Anything which the user will see or search on has to be in English and Welsh. Other Dublin Core elements are recorded in English only (this decision was taken on the advice of the National Library of Wales and is based entirely on the limitations of existing computer systems and the amount of time that fully bilingual metadata would take to translate and enter; it has nothing to do with political preferences for one language or the other.)

As a result we have divided our metadata into four categories. Core elements are those that are mandatory, and which will be viewed or searched by the user, together with copyright information; Important elements are those which we may not get from an institution but which we will supply ourselves, such as a detailed interpretative description of the image. Technical elements are those which record how the material was digitally captured; we do not regard these as a high priority but as they are easy to enter in batches we always make sure we complete them. And finally Useful elements are the other Dublin Core elements that we will collect if the institution can supply them easily, but which we will otherwise leave blank until such time as cataloguing to the Dublin Core standard becomes the norm.

Metadata Schema

Core Elements

Title English a caption for the item, no more than one line
Title Welsh as above, in Welsh
Identifier unique ID of item, e.g. accession or catalogue number
Location place name most significantly associated with the image
Period period of subject depicted
Copyright brief details of copyright ownership and clearance

Important Elements

Creator institution/individual that produced the original
Date date of production, e.g., when a painting was painted
Description max. 200 word description of the resource and its content
Description Welsh as above, in Welsh

Technical Elements

Capture device e.g. the scanner or camera used to capture the image
Capture history e.g. the software employed
Manipulation history file format master created in, quality control checks, etc.
Resolution of master number of pixels (e.g., 3,400 x 2,200)
Compression compressed or uncompressed
Bit depth of master e.g. 24 bit
Colour profiles e.g. Apple RGB embedded
Greyscale patch e.g. Kodak Q13 greyscale

Useful Elements

Type type of resource, e.g. “image”, “text”
Extent size, quantity, duration e.g. “1 vol., 200 pages”
Medium example, “photograph”
Language example, “EN” , “CY” ,”FR”
Relationship example, “is part of collection ….”
Location alt. bilingual place name variants
Publisher usually repository name
GIS Reference Eastings, Northings of place most significantly associated with the image
OS NGR OS National Grid Reference of place most significantly associated with the image
Credit Line where additional credit line is required for a record. Defaults to repository name



  1. Gathering the Jewels, <>

Contact details

Allison Coleman
Gathering the Jewels Ltd
National Library of Wales
Aberystwyth, Ceredigion
SY23 3BU.

QA Focus Comments

This case study describe a project funding by the NOF-digitise programme. However the content of the case study should be of interest for anyone involved in making use of Dublin Core metadata.

Note that this case study was published in IM@T Online December 2003. (A username is required to access IM@T Online).