Posted on Monday May 9, 2016

Metadata cataloguing

Theme: Supply
Indicator: Degree of descriptive metadata cataloguing in a digital collection database
Reference date: 29/5/2015 (Enumerate Core Survey 3)
Monitoring frequency: biennial
Institution types: museums, libraries, archives, other
Geographical scope: Europe

var embedDeltas={"100":600,"200":529,"300":458,"400":458,"500":458,"600":423,"700":423,"800":423,"900":423,"1000":423},chart=document.getElementById("datawrapper-chart-HK3sh"),chartWidth=chart.offsetWidth,applyDelta=embedDeltas[Math.min(1000, Math.max(100*(Math.floor(chartWidth/100)), 100))]||0,newHeight=applyDelta;"px";This indicator essentially fixes the proportion of the collections of a heritage institution that are catalogued in a collection database. In the ENUMERATE core surveys the following explanatory note was added: "The estimated percentage of your entire heritage collections that has been catalogued in a collection database concerns item level descriptions (metadata records) of analogue and born-digital heritage objects." The definition of 'item level' can be somewhat ambiguous: In archives and record offices it is common practice to think in terms of hierachies of nested objects, in other cases, an item is actually a container for several objects (sheets of paper, photographs, etc.).

In Core Survey 3 on average, 58% of the collections are catalogued in a collections database. Cataloguing percentages in libraries on average are highest. In certain types of museums and in archives and other records offices much work still needs to be done. In the latest survey the percentage for national and other archives is slightly higher than 50%, but this figure probably does not refer to item level descriptions.

Striking data

For adequately managing heritage collections full registration of all collection objects is indispensable. Seen in that light a cataloguing percentage of 58% is low: there is still a lot of work to do. As compared to other types of institutions the most recent data seem to suggest that descriptive metadata cataloguing in a digital collection database is lowest for museums of science/technology and ethnography/anthropology. Over the years it is evident that metadata cataloguing is most complete in institutions with small collections of relatively precious (unique) materials. In ENUMERATE Core Survey 3 the average percentage of objects catalogued was 69% in museums of art (n=71), whereas that percentage was only 56% in museum of archaeology or history (n-112). For museums of natural history or science the percentage was even below 50%.

Data on the status of metadata cataloguing in Europe show a fragmented picture. Data from the Finnish online service (refer to our sources below), just to give an example, seem to suggest that metadata cataloguing in Finnish museums in 2014 had increased 35% as compared to the situation in 2008.

Contact us

If you have a question about this indicator or the data analysis in general, please contact us. We are continuously trying to improve our data. If you have any other data or research available that complements or contradicts our data, please let us know. You can write an email to Gerhard Jan Nauta, gerhardjan.nauta[at]