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The Metadata Structure for a Digitized Historical Fashion Collection A comparison of MARC, DC, and VRA Core Marcia Lei Zeng Kent State University Research supported by OCLC Background of the Project The KSU Museum

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The Metadata Structure for a Digitized Historical Fashion CollectionA comparison of MARC, DC, and VRA Core

Marcia Lei Zeng

Kent State University

Research supported by OCLC

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Background of the Project

  • The KSU Museum

    • opened in 1985, one of the largest and finest collections of costumes in the U.S.;

    • with holdings spanning the mid-18th century to the present day;

    • initially assembled by Shannon Rodgers and Jerry Silverman-successful dress manufacturers on New York's Seventh Avenue;

    • now numbers 20,000+ pieces.

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Background of the Project (cont.)

  • Kent State University Library and KentLINK

    • comprises the Main Library and five specialized branch libraries;

      --including one for the School of Fashion Design and Merchandising;

    • is a member of OhioLINK consortium

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Background of the Project (cont.)

  • The Project Team

    • KSU Museum

    • KSU Library & Media Services

    • My roles: (as a researcher)

      • metadata formats

      • cataloging guidelines, examples, and a template

  • The Web Site (prototype)


  • Each object usually had the following characteristics l.jpg
    each object usually had the following characteristics: Services

    • being in three dimensions,

    • having multiple components (removable pieces),

    • requiring that pieces of items be treated both integrally and separately,

    • carrying information about history, culture, and society, and

    • demonstrating in detail about style, pattern, material, color, technique, etc.

    Think of l.jpg
    Think of … Services

    1. How to describe it?

    2. What standard(s) and format(s) to use?

    3. What access points should be provided?

    4. What to transcribe?

    The research sample l.jpg

    Costume items: Services

    1820-1920 American costumes collection

    Manchu robes collection

    Non-Costume items:


    decorative arts


    porcelain items

    The research sample

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    5 MARC Services

    1. Create new records

    5 VRA

    5 DC

    2. Convert records into two other formats

    3. Revise the VRA Core categories

    4. Apply VRA Core to

    additional 90 items

    Selecting a format l.jpg
    Selecting a format Services

    • AACR2 and USMARC

    • The Core Categories for Visual Resources (VRA Core)

    • Dublin Core Metadata (Dublin Core, or, DC)

    • Two local considerations: compatibility and simplicity.

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    The Core Categories for Visual Resources ( ServicesVRA Core)


      • 19 Categories


      • 9 categories

    Major challenge 1 transcribing l.jpg
    Major challenge 1: Transcribing Services

    • Museum objects often carry no wording at all.

    • Museum objects usually offer nothing comparable to the author, title, date of a published work.


    • TITLE


    • Author=creator=designer=manufacture=?

    • Title<=general term=>subject term?

    Major challenge 2 description and interpretation l.jpg
    Major challenge 2: Services Description and Interpretation

    • “Biography”

    • Identity

    • Function and construction

    • Temporal and geographical significance

    • History, cultures background

    • Social and cultural context

    • see examples:

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    • owner, or person related to the item Services

      • e.g., "This dress, bonnet and shawl all belonged to Marie Eleanor Bente who married Gerhart Henry Albers in 1865.

      • ... ... Gerhart Albers served in the Union Army during the Civil War and acted as a translator for German speaking troops. His name is inscribed on the Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Public Square in Cleveland."

      • e.g., "Fan gift of Ben Frost in memory of Carolyn Frost."

    Slide17 l.jpg

    • significance of patterns, colors, customs, etc. Services

      • e.g., "On the center front of this red silk satin coat is embroidered a puzi with a mandarin duck, emblem of a seventh-degree civil official";

      • e.g., "A bride was considered an 'empress' on her wedding day, and quasi-official bridal attire often had imagery adapted from Manchu court costume, including the imperial dragon and the phoenix, fenghuang, associated with the empress."

    Slide18 l.jpg

    • style history Services

      • e.g., "Dresses in this style, with knee-length fronts of the bodice flowing into the polonaise, are illustrated in 'The Queen' for October, 1871, and continue through to 1873. The applied band on the skirt appears in 'Le Follet' in March, 1872 and 'The Queen' for July, 1872.”

    Major challenge 2 cont description and interpretation l.jpg
    Major challenge 2: Services(CONT.)Description and Interpretation

    • (MARC) 5xx NOTES

      500 (general note), 508 (creation/reproduction credits note), 520 (summary, abstract, annotation, scope note), 535 (location of originals/duplicates note), 541 (acquisition note), 561 (provenance note), and 585 (exhibition note), … ...




    Major challenge 3 representation of subjects l.jpg
    Major challenge 3: Services Representation of Subjects

    • “Ofness” and “Aboutness”

    • Various ways to access

      • chronological, geographical, cultural influence, style/group name, … ...






    Desired elements in a record i l.jpg

    1) Registration Information: Services

    accession information,

    nature of the item,

    patent information,




    mode in which the item was acquired,

    primary designers and manufacturer,


    exhibition history, etc.;

    Desired Elements in a record (I)


    Desired elements in a record ii l.jpg
    Desired Elements in a record (II) Services

    • 2) Descriptive Information:

      • type,

      • style or particular culture influence,

      • accessories and parts,

      • dimension,

      • dye(s),

      • fabric,

      • pattern,

      • surfacing and technique, etc.

    Table 2

    Desired elements in a record iii l.jpg
    Desired Elements in a record (III) Services

    • 3) Subject/Topic Information:

      • subject terms that indicate

        • the function of a costume,

        • its primary cultural influence,

        • its period of fashion design, and

        • notable terms beyond a general description.

    Table 3

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    My Opinion: Services

    • In general, existing metadata standards are primarily designed for document and document-like objects and for limited types of objects.

    • They have not progressed enough to include much of the key information related to a historical fashion object.

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    USMARC (in use with AACR2) Services

    • Provides an exhaustive format for description (e.g., uses various notes, differentiates various subject heading sources).

    • However, its use requires a great deal of time and professional skill. (Sample record)

    • Important fields for authorship, title, and publication information are difficult to apply.

      • (This point also applies to other two formats.)

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    Dublin Core Services

    • Provides an easy application to create minimum level records.

    • But, for the fashion collection, it needs to supplement more descriptive elements. (sample record)

      (may be true for any non-document or non-document-like collection.)

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    VRA Core Services

    • Its treatment of a variety of specific elements matches fashion characteristics better than the other two formats.

    • Also needs some enhancement/ supplement work.

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    Revised VRA Work Description Categories Services


    • Revised: CREATOR and ROLE

    • Sub-categories added: PROVENANCE, CITATIONS, CONSERVATION, etc. in NOTES

    • Categories further divided: NOTES, SUBJECTS (see a sample record)

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    Research Outcomes: Services

    • A Template for cataloging

      • demo

    • Revised VRA Core Work Description Categories (linked through the template)

    • Mapping tables

      Revised VRA Core -->USMARC

      Revised VRA Core -->DC

      (indicated under each category’s definition; built in the template; cannot completely automatic mapping)

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    Acknowledgment Services

    • OCLC

    • KSU Museum

    • KSU New Media Services

    • my proof-reading friends

    • JASIS referees

    • Dr. Linda Hill

    • Dr. Richard Rubin

    Full report @ l.jpg

    Full report @: Services

    JASIS 50(13)

    Annual Review of OCLC Research website (coming soon) or

    Marcia Lei Zeng

    Research supported by OCLC