AbstractWhen many collections are brought together in a federation or aggregation, the attributes of the original collections can get lost. Collection-level metadata has the potential to provide important context about the purpose and features of individual collections, but these qualitative aspects are difficult to describe in a systematic way. This paper reports on a content analysis of collection records in the IMLS Digital Collections and Content Collection Registry, conducted to analyze the kinds of substantive and purposeful information provided about 202 cultural heritage collections. The findings show that the Dublin Core free-text Description field often provides more accurate and complete representation of subjects and object types than the specified fields. Properties such as importance, uniqueness, comprehensiveness, provenance, and creator are represented, as well as other vital contextual information about the intentions of a collector and the value of a collection, as a whole, for scholarly users. The results demonstrate that semantically rich free-text Description field can provide a valuable source of data for enhancing and customizing controlled vocabularies and that there is a need for collection-level metadata schema that better represent holistic properties of collections.
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