Please enable JavaScript in your browser.

What is metadata? How do I understand it? How can I contribute?

What is Metadata?

Metadata is the structured data that describes the data associated with a collection. Imagine a spreadsheet with column headings that signify the kinds of data that go into the cells of that column. One heading might read, “date of birth,” another, “country of origin.” These columns create the fields that structure the data that gets collected from each document, collectively forming our metadata schema. On the digital object pages, however, this data does not appear in spreadsheet form, but as a list right beneath the image viewer. The full collection of metadata is available for download and reuse here.

NARA provides a few metadata fields with their digitized collection, namely, date of birth, date of entry, port of entry, and country of birth, but little else. So, unlike NARA’s minimal metadata that applies to the collective A-File, Keeping Records and the Golden Gate assigns metadata on the document level. That means we assigned metadata to every document within each A-File, making Keeping Records and the Golden Gate’s metadata more expansive, precise, and searchable. However, some documents do not contain the same data as others, and since our metadata is on the document level, not every object will have data for every field. Any field left blank does not appear on the object viewer page.

From its inception, this project has been collaborative in every aspect. We invite anyone to join the team by contributing to our metadata. You can use this form to add metadata for any document that needs it, or you can use the same form to suggest any changes to the exiting metadata. Use the guide below to learn about our schema, and this article to learn more about the reasons we made the choices we did in structuring the data.

Guide to Each Field

pid | label | type | description | date_created | temporal_coverage | creator | contributor | recipient | country_of_origin | source_origin | a_number | family_name | given_name | additional_name | alias | nationality | race | complexion | color | ethnicity | birth_place | birth_date | death_date | date_of_entry | port_of_entry | date_of_naturalization | residence | sex | family_members | occupation | status_enumeration |

pid

label

type

This is one of the toughest fields as many document types could be classified under multiple categories. We primarily distinguish between documents that have their origin within a government agency and those created by non-governmental actors. As a general rule, if the document is clearly a form, and especially if it has an identifiable form number, then that takes precedence over any other classification.

description

date_created

    Year Known         Month Known         Day Known         ISO 8601           Example    
Yes Yes Yes   YYYY-MM-DD      2020-02-20   
Yes Yes No YYYY-MM-- 2020-02
Yes No No YYYY---- 2020-----
Yes No Yes YYYY---DD 2020---20
No Yes Yes --MM-DD --02--20
No No Yes ----DD ----20
No Yes No --MM-- --02--

temporal_coverage

creator

contributor

recipient

country_of_origin

source origin

a_number

family_name

given_name

additional_name

alias

nationality

race

complexion

color

ethnicity

birth_place

birth_date

death_date

date_of_entry

port_of_entry

date_of_naturlaization

residence

sex

family_members

status_enumeration