Review of the metadata in use by the Metropolitan Museum of Art database

The metadata used by the MOMA’s online database indicates an object’s type or function; date or date range of production; original individual or corporate maker, designer, and patron or commissioner, and their birth and death dates, and locations, if known; “culture,” meaning country where the object was produced or national culture that it represents; specific place of production, if known; the object’s medium or materials of production, and method of production; size dimensions; classifications according to the J. Paul Getty Museum “Categories for the Description of Works of Art”; credit line, or the name of the benefactor of the object to the MOMA museum; accession number; and provenance. The metaadata also provides links to images of other objects in the collection, related because they were made by the same creator; are in the same national or cultural department; are from the same continent or country; are made from the same materials; or were made in the same century. The metadata also provides links to five “related” objects, identified by object title and accession number, proximate to the object in succeeding degrees because they were produced by the same maker, date from the same year or time period, or use the same medium.

The MOMA’s metadata allow a user to research multiple aspects of a digitized object’s identity, concerning questions its visual or thematic aspects; its size; the names and biographical data of its creator and possessor; the location, date, and method of its production and national culture with which those aspects are associated; the history of its ownership; and an alphanumeric identifier that presumably enables a user to know the physical location in the MOMA of the original object.

The MOMA’s metadata does not allow a user to learn exactly where the original object is; its physical touch; its smell; the degree to which it has deteriorated; its monetary value; how popular the image is among MOMA visitors or users; their interpretations or reactions to the object; or how or by whom it is a subject of scholarly research.

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