The Past, Present, and Future of Embedded Metadata for the Long-Term Maintenance of and Access to Digital Image Files

The Past, Present, and Future of Embedded Metadata for the Long-Term Maintenance of and Access to Digital Image Files

Greg Reser (University of California, San Diego, USA) and Johanna Bauman (Pratt Institute, USA)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 12
DOI: 10.4018/jdls.2012010104
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Abstract

The authors will provide a background and state of the research on the subject of embedding metadata for the long-term maintenance of and access to digital image files, describe its uses and limitations, and outline recent attempts to standardize embedded metadata schemas and formats in commercial and academic contexts. They will then conclude by describing the challenges currently facing information professionals looking to use embedded metadata effectively, and look forward to what the future of embedded image metadata might hold as registries are released and semantic web applications are further developed.
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State Of The Research

Embedded metadata in general, and embedded image metadata in particular, have not yet been the subject of much study in academic library and information science journals. The richest resources for finding out more about them and how they work are found in standards documents and websites, such as the Embedded Metadata Manifesto, released by the International Press Telecommunications Council (IPTC) on their website (IPTC, 2011) and the Exchangeable image file format for digital still cameras: Exif Version 2.2 published by the Japan Electronics and Information Technology Industries Association (2002). (See the listing of relevant standards below.) Some recent articles published in such journals as the Online Information Review (Bardet & Liu, 2010) and the Electronic Library (Groenwald & Breytenback, 2010) have begun to present research into the actual application of embedded metadata in the context of information gathering, workflow, digital libraries, and archival practices; and as early as 2003 archivists of electronic files of various formats recognized the power of embedding metadata to help maintain the necessary context of digital files to one another (Tough & Moss, 2003). There have been countless publications on developing standards and best practices for providing access to digital surrogates in databases and on the web (Baca, 2008) but the potential power of embedded metadata in these contexts has not yet been fully explored. This is probably due in part to many of the challenges presented by metadata that are embedded directly in an image file: 1) the standards for embedded metadata have been driven primarily by commercial interests for whom creating common structures and schemas has not been a high priority until recently (Metadata Working Group, 2010); 2) because these schemas have been proprietary the data they contain has not been easily transported across different applications and platforms and they display inconsistently in various desktop applications and online tools (Riecks, 2011); and 3) a hesitance on the part of librarians and archivists (who are used to managing data in databases) to embrace embedded metadata because it poses new challenges for management, maintenance, and synchronization (Research Libraries Group, 2003) However, in recent years, more academic and information service groups have begun to explore how embedded image metadata could be useful in the context of digital libraries and archives, and some of these initiatives will be described below.

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