DPLA Archival Description Working Group

By DPLA, September 4, 2015.
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The Library, Archives, and Museum communities have many shared goals: to preserve the richness of our culture and history, to increase and share knowledge, to create a lasting record of human progress.

However, each of these communities approaches these goals in different ways. For example, description standards vary widely among these groups. The library typically adopts a 1:1 model where each item has its own descriptive record. Archives and special collections, on the other hand, usually describe materials in the aggregate as a collection. A single record, usually called a “finding aid,” is created for the entire collection. Only the very rare or special item typically warrants a description all its own. So the archival data model typically has one metadata record for many objects (or a 1:n ratio).

At DPLA, our metadata application profile and access platform have been centered on an item-centric library model for description: one metadata record for each individual digital object. While this method works well for most of the items in DPLA, it doesn’t translate to the way many archives are creating records for their digital objects. Instead, these institutions are applying an aggregate description to their objects.

Since DPLA works with organizations that use both the item-level and aggregation-based description practices, we need a way to support both. The Archival Description Working Group will help us get there.

The group will explore solutions to support varying approaches to digital object description and access and will produce a whitepaper outlining research and recommendations. While the whitepaper recommendations will be of particular use to DPLA or other large-scale aggregators, any data models or tools advanced by the group will be shared with the community for further development or adoption.

The group will include representatives from DPLA Hubs and Contributing Institutions, as well as national-level experts in digital object description and discovery. Several members of the working group have been invited to participate, but DPLA is looking for a few additional members to volunteer. As a member of the working group, active participation in conference calls is required, as well as a willingness to assist with research and writing.

If you are interested in being part of the Archival Description Working Group, please fill out the volunteer application form by 9/13/15. Three applicants will be chosen to be a part of the working group, and others will be asked to be the first reviewers of the whitepaper and any deliverables. An announcement of the full group membership will be made by the end of the month.