Friday 17 May 2013

Museums - how important is attibution?

We've got so used to thinking about metadata as a protection for copyright we sometimes forget how useful it is in other ways. It is a sad fact that the vast majority of images on museum web sites contain no metadata if the images are downloaded.  Right-click/download is such an easy way of sourcing images for personal use, for example in education. But without embedded metadata the images float on the desktop without any information about the museum or organisation they came from. How irritating for the user and for the museum providing the resource.
Despite years of campaigning with the IPTC Photometadata Working Group and the Embedded Metadata Manifesto, I see things moving at snails pace. Even preview images downloaded from heritage image libraries often contain no metadata.
Meanwhile the orphan works bandwagon rolls on…..
Who do we blame for this? Lets put it this way; the only people who can make a real difference are the software developers who create web sites. Generally speaking these people, who have great skills in software and coding, are not very image-aware. It was never on their job description. Now imagery plays such a large role on the web it’s time for a wake up call. The metadata may add a tiny bit to the image size, but in my view photographers, image libraries and yes, main museum departments, can hardly be said to be doing sensible business if their images are circulating on the web without so much as a single line of attribution.
Who will make the software people play ball with metadata? This means ENABLING METADATA EMBEDDING  and NOT STRIPPING METADATA  when images are uploaded to the web. People working in a heritage environment need to speak up. If a software developer says ‘ Ah this isn’t on my development list’ perhaps the answer is ‘It should be. Metadata embedding is essential to our business, and we are essential to yours. ' Stand up for yourselves!
Interest in metadata workflow is growing, with collections management and image library departments starting to talk to each other. Attribution will be one of the topics at the heritage session at the IPTC Conference at CEPIC in Barcelona in June. Topics we will discusss are:
  • Embedded metadata and attribution of museum images
  • IPTC Fields and the Cultural Heritage Sector (what new fields are needed?
 If you are interested in these things get in touch……

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