Essential Metadata for Preserving Digital Master Files

This activity is now closed. The information on this page is provided for historical purposes only.

In the late 1990s, as digital collections grew through acquisition and reformatting, the need also grew for image files to include information describing their contents in a way that would enable the preservation community to establish and manage digital preservation "master files." Guidelines at the time, while facilitating access to electronic files distributed across the Internet, did little to codify the kind of information needed.

In early 1997 we charged a Preservation Issues of Metadata working group to identify and recommend for RLG the kinds of preservation metadata needed. In 1998 the group issued a concise report recommending 16 elements considered crucial to the continued viability of a digital image master file. Appendices related these to Dublin Core, USMARC, and XML implementations.

  • Final report

In reaching their recommendations for a set of essential preservation metadata for digital master files, the group:

  • Reviewed Dublin Core and the work of the PCC Core Bibliographic Record for Computer Files Task Force.
  • Reviewed the thinking of the RLG Working Group on Preservation and Reformatting Information to ensure that outcomes would be consistent.
  • Reviewed the recommendations related to master files of a 1996 RLG Task Force to Investigate Preservation Information to Accompany Digital Files (the "Balaclava" task force).
  • Identified and compiled data elements associated with master files that have preservation-based intent.


The 1997-98 RLG Working Group on Preservation Issues of Metadata comprised:

Barbara Berger
Cornell University
Jim Coleman, Co-Chair
Stanford University
Willy Cromwell-Kessler, Co-Chair
Robin Dale
Bob DeCandido
New York Public Library
Carla Montori
University of Michigan
Seamus Ross
University of Glasgow

Related projects

OAIS-compliant Metadata

Capturing Technical Metadata

MARC 21 for Digital Files

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