Metadata and Online Exhibits

It was during my position as a Graduate student assistant at Loyola’s Congressional Archives where I first came in contact with metadata, and embarrassingly I didn’t realize it until I read this weeks An Introduction to Metadata. One of the projects I was involved with was processing VHS tapes in the Henry Hyde collection. After viewing each VHS, I was tasked with creating themes for the tapes that would be searchable online once available to the public. These categories are metadata, information that aids individuals in gathering the appropriate information they need when searching a website. While this was my first time actually generating metadata, it is something I have come across throughout my academic career.

While I wasn’t aware of the term (which I feel quite stupid about now) I always found myself critiquing websites use of metadata. Looking back on one of the first group projects in class, when we had to assess a museum’s web presence, I remember being frustrated with Newberry’s digital resource page. Although they have a collection keyword section where you could choose what topic you wish to explore, it was only after googling a topic that I was directed to a resource on the page. I’m sure if I would have given the selection a closer examination I might have eventually found the resource, however, the first time around it wasn’t a conducive use of metadata.

Now realizing what to look for I went to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s online exhibits, because the website has consistently been a useful source of information, as well as easy to navigate. The Museum has a new online exhibit, “Some Were Neighbors: Collaboration & Complicity in the Holocaust,” which uses metadata I haven’t come across before. Upon entering the site you could choose your own path by picking a group of collaborators, which then leads you to further categories of exploration. When you decide what you want to view first the resource pops up and provides you with a photo or video and general information on what is displayed. There is a menu that has different options, one being tags. Once pressed a window pops up that ask the user “In one word—what do you see in this picture?” You could then submit what you believe is an appropriate tag, or just skip and view the tags already assigned to the item on display (which could then lead you to more relatable content.) I think this is a new, innovative way to allow participation amongst users and represents a form of metadata, user-created.


The USHMM’s online exhibit actually relates to my group’s own ideas for our online exhibit (not in content, but in functionality). The choice to choose your own path in the exhibit is something we have discussed, and I think incorporating USHMM’s user-created metadata could further engage dialogue and interest in our website.





One thought on “Metadata and Online Exhibits

  1. I too used the USHMM’s We Were Neighbors exhibition as a case study. For me, this exhibition comes the closest to the social metadata ideal from this week’s readings. The ability for users to tag images not only allows the creators to document how visitors respond to the exhibition but also creates as sense of a virtual community. Besides metadata, I appreciated the multiple ways the exhibition allowed visitors to interact with the story and guide their own experience.


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