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  Preservation Procedure Policy: Metadata:  Descriptive metadata
Related Guidance Policies
Definition/ Description Descriptive metadata is related to the OAIS term `Descriptive information` and supports the user in finding the digital objects. Descriptive metadata is used for describing the collection and digital objects within this collection (who, what, when, where etc.) to be able to identify and retrieve the digital material in the future. It is in the descriptive metadata that the intellectual content of each digital object is described. The organisation should use a standard to be able to retrieve the information about the digital collection. The organisation should define a set of minimum fields from a metadata standard scheme that must be filled in for each digital object. It is also important to be aware of any domain specific information that needs to be included in the descriptive metadata.
Why A minimum set of descriptive metadata is necessary in order to understand and retrieve the digital object. The information about a digital object needs to be findable in order to be accessible.
Risks Lack of descriptive metadata can make it impossible for a future designated community to find and comprehend the digital object.
Life cycle stage Description & Representation Information, Preservation Planning, Create or Receive, Ingest, Access Use, and re-use
Stakeholder Management: defines metadata policies and the use of standards
Technology Manager: responsible for ensuring the proper systems for rendering the metadata and the digital material
Consumer:needs to be able to access and trust the metadata in order to understand the digital material
Cross Reference Designated Community
Examples Swiss Federal Archives: “The SFA archive information system (AIS) for the management of description information (administrative, descriptive, structural and technical metadata) guarantees the retrievability of documents independently of the type of archive records.” Source: [
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 Wellcome Library: “The Library considers metadata (Technical as well as descriptive) to be essential for lifecycle management as well as resource discovery.” Source:
Control Policy
  • Schema used for descriptive metadata SHOULD be Dublin Core
  • Minimum metadata fields MUST be completedFor collection x with digitized newspapers then
  • Metadata MUST include scanning device
Questions to foster discussions
  • Does your organisation use a standard(s) for descriptive metadata?
  • Has your organisation defined a minimum set of required fields in the metadata scheme to be filled out for each collection/digital object?
  • Is your organisation aware of domain specific information for each collection that should be considered in the descriptive metadata? 
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