* Written by Jenn Riley *
Article discussed: Eklund, Janice. (2007) “Herding Cats: CCO, XML, and the VRA Core.” VRA Bulletin 34, no. 1: 45-68.
The Discussion Group began by picking up a theme from the first meeting of the semester: effective use of terminology in writing about metadata. This article did a good job using new terms consistently and frequently, although terms from VRA Core 3 were occasionally applied to a discussion of Core 4. The discussion of consistency then expanded to consistency in metadata itself. Consistency is very useful when one is combining metadata from multiple sources, and content standards like CCO can go a long way towards promoting this consistency.
The mention of CCO sparked a lively conversation about the way the word “standards” is tossed about in metadata circles. Is CCO a standard or not? CCO and VRA Core are not in total agreement, so what does it mean if both are standards we should follow? One can track why the difference exists—CCO has a broader scope, including museums, than VRA Core. CCO is a standard in the way AACR2 is a standard, but not in the way MARC is a standard. AACR2 is learned by practice, and less by reading the book. CCO is still evolving, taking time to learn and implement. It’s more a guide to best practice than AACR2 is. CCO is principle-based like RDA is supposed to be, because it needs to be applicable to many communities.
The next topic of discussion was whether or not VRA Core is really “core.” Its greater coverage for works of art than Dublin Core certainly speaks to it being a domain-specific “core.” The group was less sure if it represented an “exhaustive core.” Tracking VRA Core’s history could be instructive in this analysis – the evolution from Core 2 to Core 3 to Core 4 shows some stabilization, so this could be evidence that they’ve achieved an agreed-upon core. The only really new thing in Core 4 is the collection root element (in addition to work and image).
The linking capability of VRA Core was singled out as an especially effective part of the format, encouraging the use of identifiers to track relationships within text strings. There is not the infrastructure for collaborative development and sharing of authority records in the visual resources community that there is in the library community, so the process of record linking is more manual now in the VR environment than in the library/MARC community. But there is significant progress being made. The community needs to build good systems, and cooperate between institutions. They also need to expand the notion of authority control, to allow for more variety in name references, for example.
Efforts such as CONA (Cultural Objects Name Authority, forthcoming from the Getty) and the Society of Architectural Historians Architectural Visual Resources Network are helping to build the needed infrastructure. More cooperation overall is needed – the VR community and library community are both starting to realize that each of us having our own copies of records isn’t sustainable. Formats like VRA Core can promote fuller record sharing.
Using separate fields for display and indexing was another feature of VRA Core of interest to the discussion group. It was noted that this practice allowed a great deal of flexibility but also required twice as much work. To decide when this is necessary, one must consider how the information will be used—for search or display? in future systems in addition to future ones? how easy will it be to upgrade systems? It’s more important to include both for data elements that represent key features of the work or medium, for example, cultural context.
The discussion group noted that cultural objects cataloging could be a model for library catalogers looking to re-examine which aspects of their work require the attention of cataloging professionals. Cultural objects cataloging places a greater emphasis on analysis than transcription, which is necessary because cultural objects in general don’t explain themselves. Interestingly enough, some visual resources units are “outsourcing” subject indexing to traditional catalogers. Many catalogers on both sides don’t feel competent to do subjective indexing – is something “about death”? It’s much easier to record form/style, what something is rather than what it is about.