Lifecycle Metadata for Digital Objects

INF 389K
School of Information
The University of Texas, Austin

Summer 2014


Danielle Cunniff Plumer, Ph.D.
Office hours: By appointment, Monday and Wednesday, 2-4 p.m.
Office: UTA 5.456


Stacey Wilson


Course Description

This course will focus upon using metadata in a digital archives environment. “Using” includes not only creating descriptive metadata about digital objects and collections but also identifying, extracting, authenticating, normalizing, and preserving metadata included in or associated with the digital object in order to construct the “metadata continuum”–all elements of metadata collected about a digital object or generated as part of it during its lifetime–in order to understand how metadata may function as an authenticating wrapper for digital objects (including electronic records, digital artworks, digitized images, etc.).

To this end we will review concepts including authenticity and provenance as an introduction to working through the full range of metadata that a digital object might have when managed in various environments and for various purposes. Elements of the continuum that will be taken up and analyzed include records surveys and inventories, creation metadata, active management metadata, records schedules, accession metadata, cataloging and description metadata, maintenance and preservation metadata, digital rights management metadata, and usage metadata. Students will be exposed to major metadata initiatives, both within and without the library/archives/museum fields, and will be invited to speculate about the future of metadata in archival and other environments.


Course Objectives

This class has been designed so that students need know nothing about digital objects or metadata to begin with, apart from proficiency in using a personal computer. We will review the various types of metadata and metadata schemes commonly used in archives. We will investigate XML and RDF as standards for the technical interchange and markup of metadata. As a case study we will use ArchivesSpace, a new tool for archival management, to describe digital archival objects and manage their metadata. By the end of the course, students should know:

  • What possible types of metadata might be appropriately generated in the maximal lifecycle of a digital object
  • What specific metadata might need to be preserved permanently for specific digital object formats and genres
  • What metadata schemes are presently in common use and how to create application profiles or metadata guidelines to meet local needs
  • How to markup metadata in XML, and how XML might be used throughout a digital object lifecycle


Major Topics

  • Metadata Types[1] (not a definitive list)
    • Administrative: Metadata used in managing and administering collections and information resources
    • Descriptive: Metadata used to identify and describe collections and related information resources
    • Preservation: Metadata related to the preservation management of collections and information resources
    • Technical: Metadata related to how a system functions or metadata behaves
    • Use: Metadata related to the level and type of use of collections and information resources
    • Metadata Standards
      • Container standards (metadata element sets, schemes)
        • Dublin Core
        • MODS
        • EAD
        • EAC-CPF
  • Value standards (controlled vocabularies, thesauri, controlled lists)
    • Library of Congress Authorities and Vocabularies (LCSH, LCNAF)
    • Getty Vocabularies (AAT, CONA, TGN, ULAN)
    • OCLC Research Metadata Prototypes (VIAF, FAST)
  • Content standards (cataloging rules, data dictionaries)
    • DACS
    • RDA
    • PREMIS
  • Format/technical interchange standards
    • XML
    • RDF
    • Linked Data





  • Dow, Elizabeth. 2005. Creating EAD-Compatible Finding Guides on Paper. Scarecrow Press.
  • Roe, Kathleen. 2005. Arranging and Describing Archives and Manuscripts (Archival Fundamentals Series II). Chicago: Society of American Archivists.

Additional readings will be assigned for specific topics.



BitCurator. A customized BitCurator Virtual Machine is installed on every Mac in the computer classroom at the UT iSchool. If you’d like to install a copy for personal use, you will first need to install VirtualBox from

The standard BitCurator VM is available from

The  VM I customized for the course (which includes some tools for working with bags) is available from my personal Google Drive account. If you’re curious about the customization, you can read the install information here.


Method of Instruction:

The course will be taught in a face to face environment. Computer labs will be scheduled in addition to discussion sessions. Attendance is required and failure to attend class sessions will affect course grade.


Course Communication

Communication between the instructor and the students outside of class will be facilitated by way of e-mail. Skype and GoToMeeting screensharing sessions are available by appointment.

**  Each student is required to e-mail the instructor at the beginning of the semester and to provide his/her e-mail address, mailing address, and ALL telephone numbers where the student can be reached.


Disability Statement

Any student with a documented disability who requires academic accommodations should contact Services for Students with Disabilities at 471-6259 (voice) or 1-866-329-3986 (Video Phone) as soon as possible to request an official letter outlining authorized accommodations.


Revised October 29, 2013

[1] Gilliland, A. 2008. Setting the stage. In Introduction to Metadata (Online Edition, Version 3.0). Los Angeles: Getty Publications. Retrieved from