Gilliland metadata

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Gilliland metadata

  • Terry Cook  - have to listen to the archival discourse of the time and place involved - understanding the archives within the context of its time


  • paper argues that by identifying aspects of metadata and the discursive formations around the metadata, it is possible to discern the diversity of ways in which archives have been "systems of statements" in the Foucauldian sense, that arise out of a "density of discursive practices" and thus reflect what "all those in the foreground are looking at."


  • possible to discern the ways in which archives have been instrumental in how those in the foreground look  at phenomena around them.


  • argues for an archaeology of metadata - deep descriptive and empirical investigations of heterogeneous historical and contemporary cases  - provides a method for exposing and examining practices and discourses that surround recordkeeping metadata and that have been promulgated by metadata.
    • can illuminate diverse physical, procedural, conceptual and discursive forms metadata and recordkeeping and the archive have taken over time


  • metadata: (entered the glossary in 1990s, although it is not a "new" term per se )refer to all or any of the various traces and statements made about records, recordkeeping structures, processes and contexts, especially in digital recordkeeping, online desctiption and digitization. Key infrastructural components and knowledge management tools


  • term  - metadata has been appropriated to apply to the products of archi. desc. or of cataloging and awareness of its wider scope still not recognized.


  • archival description became a term in the 1970s.


  • only focusing on metadata in relation to description means failing to acknowledge metadata about records and recordkeeping and their contexts that exist distinct from arch. des.


  • RKMS  - first comprehensive conceptual framework to address metadata in the ways that it naturally occurs or is assigned across all recordkeeping activities. Uses deductive entity-relationship model to identify agents (record, agent, mandate, business process, recordkeeping) and relationship between them that generate metadata through the entire existence of a record and the recordkeeping continuum.
    • continuum - besides the usual description and management process/procedures/structures employed by archivists,  incorporates the  conscious and unconscious traces left by activities, transactions and decisions as well as those that document organizational/societal functions and mandates of recordkeeping


  • InterPARES - engaged with defining conceptual parameters of the digital record and has identified several forms of relevant context - juridical, administrative, provenancial, procedural, documentary and technological that need to be taken into consideration...results of study: the ubiquity and instrumentality of metadata across all processes in recordkeeping


The Archaeological Approach 

  • first framed by Foucault as a method of looking at differences in discursive formations within their distinctive historical contexts "tries to outline particular configurations...arch. does not have a unifying, but a diversifying effect" and wishes to uncover the "play of analogies and differences as they appear in various discursive formations"


  • applying this method in a diversity of archival cases could move discussion of metadata discourses beyond what is the same, what is different and what is new between one metadata structure or recordkeeping environment to another. Instead of miscohistory (attempting to explain some overall historical process)  - archae. supports a more nuanced notion of metadata discourses as critical apparatus that accompany records and archives, and through examination, could be used to understand the complexities and contingencies of recordkeeping in different eras/settings..the multiplicity


Royal Archive at Ebla and is Status as a True Archive 

  • 1960s, archival scholar Ernst Posner: thought the clay tablets discovered at Ebla were important, and blamed archivists for not making clear to archaeologists and other scholars what they might learn from the arrangement and documentar inter-relationships of the uncovered stores of tablets.


  • Duranti writing about the history archival description writes of Assyrian and other ancient records: archives were preserved only for administrative use of their creators...not for further scholarly or other use


  • but, research has emerged that these materials might also have supported commerce, bureaucratic admin., education and religious practices


  • Anne's paper reviews what is known about the traces that remain in the Elba records - traces embedded in function, form, arrangement, business rules and scribal protocols - "recordkeeping metadata"  to contemplate what those traces may tell us of the nature of those practices and of the archive itself


  • Royal Archive - 15,000clay tablets from 2250 BC, cuneiform and Eblaite language. Ebla existed in a nera of expanding economy and international trade and treaties. Stood at a major crossroads for trade; a complex world of commerce, exchange of ideas, education and scholarship, belief systems, literature and multilinguality


  • tablets indicate standardization of recordkeeping script, formulae and arranged practices


  • Ebla did not attract interest of archivists and record managers because of the absence of descriptive tools and the heterogeneous content of the archive


  • 2003 Alfonso Archi published first detailed study of what he terms archival recordkeeping at Ebla. It was an administrative archive used by kings; evidence of appraisal practices that winnowed the intake of records (procedural traces). No index or descriptive scheme discovered. Held more than just administrative records. Not able to tell degree of purposiveness with which the archive accumulated or if there was a consciousness of creating archival legacy.


  • asks if the discovery of  the same information items on Egyptian and Mesopotamian tablets indicate standardization of documentary form of records?


  • Ebla: physically organized by function or subject, by month. They were different shapes. The archive itself contained several sections. There was some consistency in documentary form (where final sums were on tablets) and the name of the minister or official recordkeeper was included on tablet and gives information about the use...


  • can we remove our present days lens/understanding of archives and view metadata discourses in cases under examination as a type of "critical apparatus" by which to read diverse accumulations of materials?


  • Elba Archive demonstrates that perhaps purposive arrangement can be decoupled from description - in a controlled physical situation and with assistance from human memory, be sufficient for information retrieval.


  • In crease in volume of records/vulnerability of their media increase -  perhaps the reasons for descriptive aids


  • Is it in fact the metadata, not the content, media, technology or even the archivist that is the primary constitutive agent of the archive and the narratives it projects?


  • Duranti: "description has been carried out or not carried out depending on specific needs and conditions, attitudes and requirements, and its products have consistently reflected the conceptions about archives held by the society of the time.


  • arch. profession has neglected metadata heritage