Metadata basically means "data about data," but the concept itself and all its implications and domains it applies to make this explanation too simplistic. If we add that the term is mainly used when discussing information systems and resources and that it describes "the sum total of what one can say about any information object at any level of aggregation," we may begin to have a clearer image about this concept.
As Anne J. Gilliland-Swetland writes in her essay "Setting the Stage," metadata can be use to describe the three main features of an information object: content (intrinsic to the information object), context (extrinsic to the object) and structure. Let's take for example, a library, and the main feature of a library, its content (indeed, we will assume that, even id all information objects have these three features, many of them are stronger characterized through just one or two of the features. In our case, the context dimension of a library is unimportant, because it does not have a direct impact or correlation with the library's purpose. We are interested in what the library can provide for us- its content- and this is where metadata can help). The content of a library relates to all the books, articles, references, encyclopedias, etc., that is to all the components of the library's (as an information object) content. Metadata was thus developed and took the form of "indexes, abstracts and catalog records" in order to provide "intellectual and physical access" to the content. These are all forms of metadata used to explain content.
If we refer to context, then the example of museum and archival activities is best. Here, metadata takes the form of accession records and catalog records, following certain standards that have been developed throughout time. Following these examples of how metadata is used to describe content and context (further more, the article also brings forth the example of hoe metadata is used in describing an information object's structure), we can better relate to the definition of metadata as "data about data" and we can underline one of the main characteristics of metadata: description. Indeed, metadata describes, following certain rules and certain algorithms, a series of other data and information. As we have seen in the example with the library, we have a large collection of data and information, represented by the library and all the materials within, and we use several tools to better organize and describe this data (the catalogs, indexes, etc.). This brings us to the second purpose and characteristic of metadata: organization and preservation.
Preservation, as Paul Conway points out in his essay "Preservation in the Digital World," has recently become a "coordinated, conscious management," a management of data and information, of course (this is, in my opinion, another dimension of metadata that we need to look into. If the first article that we have analyzed describes several characteristics of metadata, the article written by Paul Conway insists on metadata preservation).
Funnily enough, the durability of recording media has dropped throughout history. We can still read today Egyptian papyrus or Sumerian clay tablets and the inscriptions on them, however, magnetic tape, invention of the 20th century, may become unreadable only 30 days after its production.
In his article, Paul Conway discusses preservation as "acquisition, organization, and distribution of resources to prevent further deterioration or renew the usability of selected groups of materials." Of course, he refers to preservation in its larger implied definition, but it can (and this is what I am trying to do) be tied with the first article as we refer to metadata preservation, that is to the preservation of the information about the information. If we consider this statement, the preservation of the information about information (the data about data, as the name states), we basically arrive at the preservation of information and there is no real difference between the preservation of data and the preservation of metadata. This is why, while the first article refers to the definition of metadata, the context in which it operates and some of its classifications, the second article discusses how this data can be preserved.
In Paul Conway's opinion, all revolves around resource allocation: "people, money, and materials must be acquired, organized, and put to work to ensure that…