In a press release on January 18, 2017, the National Information Standards Organization (NISO) announced the release of Understanding Metadata, an update to NISO’s 2004 publication on the topic. The current release is the second document in NISO’s Primer Series on data management issues. The primer series began with the publication of Research Data Management in 2015 and will continue with a forthcoming publication on Linked Data for Cultural Institutions and additional guides in the future.
The 2017 primer is an expanded overview of structured metadata used in cultural heritage institutions, covering the latest developments in metadata practices, tools, standards, and languages. It provides a useful outline of the most common use cases for standard metadata types in information systems, covering a range of cultural resources management activities including description, discovery, display, interoperability, digital-object management, preservation, and object navigation. Subsequent sections provide a comprehensive overview of a.) How metadata is stored and shared through relational databases, XML documents, and Linked Data and RDF b.) The standardization of metadata through controlled vocabularies and content standards, and c.) Notable metadata languages used broadly and within cultural heritage institutions. As an introductory document, the 2017 Primer addresses the basic issues around, what is metadata, why we create metadata, and how we create, use, and share metadata.
As a newbie to understanding metadata, I found it useful to read both NISO’s 2004 Understanding Metadata document and the 2017 Primer publication. However, the latter includes a few concepts that were not covered in the original document such as Linked Data, the Bibliographic Framework Initiative (BIBFRAME), and CIDOC Conceptual Reference Model (CIDOC CRM). In other instances, the 2017 primer provides more substantive descriptions of concepts nominally covered in the 2004 publication, such as RDF (Resource Description Framework).
The 2017 NISO Primer release, Understanding Metadata, is available as a free download at http://www.niso.org/publications/press/understanding_metadata