Position Paper: Metadata

There are two parts to this discussion: (1) the metadata that can make 3D content discoverable and linkable in a library/archive sort of way, and (2) the information required within the model that makes it a usable (and re-usable) research and learning object. Part of the value of thinking about metadata and its variants is to position 3D work as a valid mode of knowledge production, and begin to establish agreed upon standards that will support its products as research objects that can be cited and linked to similar work (i.e. aggregated on sites like Europeana and eventually DPLA), peer-reviewed, re-used by secondary scholars, and positioned for long-term sustainability and preservation. (This distinction is important because metadata, in and of itself, might allow work to be included in a library catalog, but that’s not necessarily enough information to enable the goals listed above.)

Strictly thinking in terms of metadata, CIDOC-CRM (International Council of Museums (ICOM) International Committee for Documentation-Conceptual Reference Model) may serve as a model. Per the International Organization for Standardization’s website for the most recent release of the standard (ISO 21127:2014), the guidelines are for “the exchange of information between cultural heritage institutions … defined as the information managed by museums, libraries, and archives.” In brief, the CIDOC-CRM is a formal ontology that maps relationships with classes that include Events, Activities, Actors, Time-Spans, Images, Documents, Places, etc. From a practical standpoint, adopting this standard would increase the findability of 3D content, but the decision to use it (or not) is largely out of the hands of individual scholars. The standards make perfect sense for tracking and understanding the relationship of objects to their culture of origins or with related artifacts, but does not address how scholars might mark-up their models for secondary users.

There are also documents that provide directives for scholars working with cultural heritage content, but do not go so far as to suggest standards (e.g., the London Charter for the computer-based visualization of cultural heritage, the ICOMOS Ename Charter for the Interpretation of Cultural Heritage Sites, and the Principles of Seville (International Principles of Virtual Archaeology). Of these, most relevant for this discussion is the London Charter’s section on documentation.


Is it conceivable that a single metadata standard and an agreement on related information could address the myriad of projects represented by the participants at this symposium? What is the bare minimum required for entry into WorldCat, DPLA, and similar? What information needs to be associated with 3D content to make it usable by secondary scholars? How does the standard for data collection about a research object differ across disciplines? How could metadata for one discipline be made nimble enough to be useful for others? (Or is that impossible?) Considering the speed at which technology changes, are operating principles more feasible than standards?


Champion, Erik. “The role of 3D models in virtual heritage infrastructures.” In Cultural Heritage Digital Tools and Infrastructures, edited by Agiatis Benardou, Erik Champion, Costis Dallas, and Lorna Hughes. London: Routledge, 2017. (This reading speaks to a number of our discussion topics.)

Boeykens, Stefan, and Elaina Bogani. “Metadata for 3D models: how to search in 3D model repositories?” ICERI 2008 Proceedings, v1.

Bentkowska-Kafel, Anna. “Processual scholia: the importance of paradata in heritage visualization.” In Paradata and Transparency in Virtual Heritage, edited by Anna Bentkowska-Kafel, Hugh Denard, and Drew Baker, 245-259. Ashgate, 2012.

Snyder, Lisa. “VSim: scholarly annotations in real-time 3D environments.” In the proceedings of DH-CASE ’14, Fort Collins, CO, USA, September 16, 2014.

Denard, Hugh. “Implementing best practice in cultural heritage visualisation: The London Charter.” In Good Practice in Archaeological Diagnostics: Non-invasive Survey of Complex Archaeological Sites,” edited by Cristina Corsi, Božidar Slapšak, and Frank Vermeulen, 255-268. Springer, 2013.

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