As many of you know, wrangling data is hard. It is messy and unpredictable, and this is especially true when you are wrangling other people’s data and trying to make it play nice with lots of different data. Being an aggregator means trying to make the metadata consistent enough so that users know what to expect. We want users to be able to search across collections and understand the results without causing too much confusion.
We try to make partner data work together even though the metadata might describe many different types of items such as photographs, letters, furniture, clothes, newspaper articles, etc. And even though partners might have very different metadata fields (some with many, some with few). And even though the hierarchical arranging of archives is done differently.
I have written about this before but as we bring more partners on board with CPC, it is an issue we continue to encounter. I had a meeting today trying to work with messy metadata and stay true to the original record. We want users to have a confusion-free experience but metadata is complex. And of course research in archives is not neat and easy. You have to be willing to dig in and get your hands dirty, so to speak. But we don’t want users to get lost.
So this is an issue that we continue to work on and refine as we bring in new partners. Much like life, there is no simple way to make searching across diverse metadata simple but hopefully we can make it easier for users to explore.
(Image from Tancha/Shutterstock.com)