The word "metadata" means "data about data". Metadata describes a context for objects of interest such as document files, images, audio and video files. It can also be called resource description. As a tradition, resource description dates back to the earliest archives and library catalogs. The modern "metadata" field that gave rise to Dublin Core and other recent standards emerged with the Web revolution of the mid-1990s.
The Dublin Core Schema is a small set of vocabulary terms that can be used to describe different resources.
Dublin Core Metadata may be used for multiple purposes, from simple resource description, to combining metadata vocabularies of different metadata standards, to providing inter-operability for metadata vocabularies in the Linked data cloud and Semantic web implementations.
"Dublin" refers to Dublin, Ohio, USA where the schema originated during the 1995 invitational OCLC/NCSA Metadata Workshop hosted by the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC), a library consortium based in Dublin, and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA). "Core" refers to the metadata terms as broad and generic being usable for describing a wide range of resources. The semantics of Dublin Core were established and are maintained by an international, cross-disciplinary group of professionals from librarianship, computer science, text encoding, museums, and other related fields of scholarship and practice.
The Dublin Core Metadata Initiative (DCMI) provides an open forum for the development of inter-operable online metadata standards for a broad range of purposes and of business models. DCMI's activities include consensus-driven working groups, global conferences and workshops, standards liaison, and educational efforts to promote widespread acceptance of metadata standards and practices.
In 2008, DCMI separated from OCLC and incorporated as an independent entity. Any and all changes that are made to the Dublin Core standard are reviewed by a DCMI Usage Board within the context of a DCMI Namespace Policy. This policy describes how terms are assigned and also sets limits on the amount of editorial changes allowed to the labels, definitions, and usage comments.
Levels of the Standard
The Dublin Core standard originally includes two levels: Simple and Qualified. Simple Dublin Core comprised 15 elements; Qualified Dublin Core included three additional elements (Audience, Provenance and RightsHolder), as well as a group of element refinements (also called qualifiers) that could refine the semantics of the elements in ways that may be useful in resource discovery. Since 2012 the two have been incorporated into the DCMI Metadata Terms as a single set of terms using the Resource Description Framework (RDF).
The original Dublin Core Metadata Element Set which is the Simple level consists of 15 metadata elements:
Each Dublin Core element is optional and may be repeated. The DCMI has established standard ways to refine elements and encourage the use of encoding and vocabulary schemes. There is no prescribed order in Dublin Core for presenting or using the elements. The Dublin Core became ISO 15836 standard in 2006 and is used as a base-level data element set for the description of learning resources in the ISO/IEC 19788-2.
Qualified Dublin Core
Subsequent to the specification of the original 15 elements, an ongoing process to develop terms extending or refining the Dublin Core Metadata Element Set (DCMES) began. The additional terms were identified. Elements refinements make the meaning of an element narrower or more specific. A refined element shares the meaning of the unqualified element, but with a more restricted scope.
In addition to element refinements, Qualified Dublin Core includes a set of recommended encoding schemes, designed to aid in the interpretation of an element value. These schemes include controlled vocabularies and formal notations or parsing rules.
Syntax choices for Dublin Core metadata depends on a number of variables, and "one size fits all" forms rarely apply. When considering an appropriate syntax, it is important to note that Dublin Core concepts and semantics are designed to be syntax independent and are equally applicable in a variety of contexts, as long as the metadata is in a form suitable for interpretation both by machines and by human beings.
The Dublin Core Abstract Model provides a reference model against which particular Dublin Core encoding guidelines can be compared, independent of any particular encoding syntax. Such a reference model allows users to gain a better understanding of descriptions they are trying to encode and facilitates the development of better mappings and translations between different syntax.
I will describe some applications of Dublin Core in my future posts.