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Metadata: Standards

Categories of Metadata Standards

Type Examples
Data structure standards (metadata element sets, schemas). These are “categories” or “containers” of data that make up a record or other information object. MARC (Machine-Readable Cataloging) Format, Encoded Archival Description (EAD), BIBFRAME (Bibliographic Framework), Dublin Core Metadata Element Set, Categories for the Description of Works of Art, VRA Core
Data value standards (controlled vocabularies, thesauri, controlled lists). These are the terms, names, and other values that are used to populate data structure standards or metadata element sets. Library of Congress Subject Headings, Name Authority File, and Thesaurus for Graphic Materials; Getty Art & Architecture Thesaurus, Union List of Artist Names (ULAN), and Thesaurus of Geographic Names; ICONCLASS; Medical Subject Headings
Data content standards (cataloging rules and codes). These are guidelines for the format and syntax of the data values that are used to populate metadata elements. Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, Resource Description and Access, International Standard Bibliographic Description, Cataloging Cultural Objects, Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Data format/technical interchange standards (metadata standards expressed in machine-readable form). This type of standard is often a manifestation of a particular data structure standard (see above), encoded or marked up for machine processing. Resource Description Framework, MARC21, MARCXML, EAD XML DTD, METS, BIBFRAME, LIDO XML, Simple Dublin Core XML, Qualified Dublin Core XML, VRA Core 4.0 XML

Adapted from a table appearing in Chapter 1: “Setting the Stage,” by Anne J. Gilliland, in Murtha Baca's Introduction to Metadata, 3rd Edition, published by the Getty Research Institute, 2016.

Many of the elements used in the data structure standards can be mapped to each other (e.g., measurements in VRA Core to extent in Dublin Core). This allows for metadata created for the use in one community to be shared with another community. See the Getty's Metadata Standards Crosswalk for further information.

VRA Core

Developed by the Visual Resources Association, VRA Core is a metadata standard designed to describe images and the cultural objects they represent.

VRA Core incorporates three types of entities:

  • work: a cultural heritage object
  • image: a printed or digital image of a cultural heritage object
  • collection: a grouping of works and / or images

Records for each of these entities are given identification numbers; and other works, images, and collections can link to these records by pointing to those identifiers. This enables a work record to be depicted in multiple images, a collection to house many works, or a single image to show more than one work. VRA Core is designed to be open-ended and flexible: through many-to-many relationships, works, images, and collections can be associated with any number of these entities.

In the example below, the leftmost digital image is an image of both Brassaï's photograph The Eiffel Tower at Twilight, and Gustave Eiffel's Eiffel Tower. In the center, the tower is linked to two digital images and a lantern slide. On the right, a calligram by Guillaume Apollinaire is linked to the Eiffel Tower work record by its subject.

A sample record for the Brassaï photograph is below. More record examples can be found on the VRA website.


<vra xmlns=""
    <work id="w_10100" refid="10100">
            <display>Brassaï (French photographer)</display>
                <name vocab="ULAN" refid="500000306" type="personal">Brassaï</name>
            <display>ca. 1932, printed ca. 1950</display>
            <date type="creation">
            <date type="other">
            <display>Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York</display>
            <notes>Eure-et-Loir (department)</notes>
            <location type="repository">
                <name type="corporate">Metropolitan Museum of Art</name>
                <name type="geographic" vocab="TGN" refid="7007567" extent="inhabited place">New York</name>
                <name type="geographic" vocab="TGN" refid="7007568" extent="state">New York</name>
                <name type="geographic" vocab="TGN" refid="7012149" extent="nation">United States</name>
            <display>gelatin silver print</display>
            <display>28.8 x 22.4 cm</display>
            <measurements type="height" unit="cm">28.8</measurements>
            <measurements type="length" unit="cm">22.4</measurements>
            <relation type="imageOf" relids="w_10100"/>
            <stylePeriod vocab="AAT" refid="300264736">Modern (style or period)</stylePeriod>
            <display>Eiffel Tower; Paris, France</display>
                <term type="builtworkPlace" vocab="LCSAF" refid="sh85136247">Tour Eiffel (Paris, France)</term>
            <display>black-and-white photography</display>
            <technique vocab="AAT" refid="300162056">black-and-white photography</technique>
            <display>The Eiffel Tower at Twilight</display>
            <title type="repository" pref="true" xml:lang="en">Chartres Cathedral</title>
            <title type="inscribed" pref="false" xml:lang="fr">La Tour Eiffel dans le Crépuscul</title>
            <display>black-and-white photographs</display>
            <worktype vocab="AAT" refid="300128347">black-and-white photographs</worktype>

    <image id="i_23857" refid="23857">
            <notes>digital image was provided by the Metropolitan Museum.</notes>
                <name type="corporate" vocab="LCNAF" refid="n79129629">Metropolitan Museum of Art</name>
            <display>1 MB</display>
            <relation type="imageOf" relids="w_10100"/>
            <display>© Estate Brassaï - R.M.N.</display>
            <display>digital imaging</display>
            <display>The Eiffel Tower at Twilight</display>
            <title type="generalView">The Eiffel Tower at Twilight</title>
            <display>digital image</display>

Dublin Core

Dublin Core is a set of metadata elements which can be used to describe bibliographic materials (books, journals, DVDs) as well as digital resources on the web. It can be encoded using the DCMES or DC-RDF schemas.

  1. Title
  2. Creator
  3. Subject
  4. Description
  5. Publisher
  6. Contributor
  7. Date
  8. Type
  9. Format
  10. Identifier
  11. Source
  12. Language
  13. Relation
  14. Coverage
  15. Rights 

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<rdf:RDF xmlns:rdf=""
    xmlns:dc ="">
    <rdf:Description rdf:about="">
        <dc:title>Dublin Core Metadata Initiative - Home Page</dc:title>
        <dc:title xml:lang="fr">L'Initiative de métadonnées du Dublin Core</dc:title>
        <dc:title xml:lang="de">der Dublin-Core Metadata-Diskussionen</dc:title>
        <dc:description>The Dublin Core Metadata Initiative Web site.</dc:description>
        <dc:contributor>The Dublin Core Metadata Initiative</dc:contributor>


Categories for the Description of Works of Art (CDWA) is a set of cataloging rules used to describe works of art, architecture, and material culture. It includes 540 different categories & subcategories, which might be thought of as fields in a database. Many of these categories are optional (e.g., Exhibition / Loan history, Critical Responses), however a core subset are considered to be essential.

Cataloging Cultural Objects (CCO) is a more in-depth set of cataloging rules which builds on the core categories of CDWA. It describes how the the cataloger should approach the object at hand, what kinds of information should be collected, and aspects such as wording, capitalization, and punctuation.

Class: manuscripts • Islamic art

Work Type: illumination

Title: Two Lovers

Creator Display: Riza (Persian, ca. 1565-1635)

  • Role: illuminator

Creation Date: 1039 anno Hegirae (1630 CE)

  • Earliest: 1630 • Latest: 1630

Subject: human figures • lovers • embracing

Current Location: Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, New York, United States)

  • ID: 50.164

Measurements: 18.1 x 11.9 cm (7 1/8 x 4 11/16 inches)

  • Value: 18.1 Unit: cm Type: height
  • Value: 11.8 Unit: cm Type: width

Materials and Techniques: tempera, gilt paint on paper 

  • Material: tempera • paper • gilt paint
  • Technique: painting

Inscriptions: signed: Riza-yi `Abbasi; dated: A.H. 1039

Description: The artist was working at the court of Shah ‘Abbas the Great (reigned 1588-1629); this work shows his renowned inventive palette and calligraphic line. The lovers are drawn as inextricably bound together, merged volumes confined within one outline.

  • Description Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art online. ; Page: accessed 13 December 2006


The Getty Research Institute publishes a number of thesauri which are widely used throughout the cultural heritage community.

Example Records: Istanbul, Erie Canaldecanters, moose, Michelangelo