Minimal descriptive practices have been embraced by archives over the past fifteen years for their efficiency and practicality. This paper explores the strengths and weaknesses of minimal description within the context of digitized collections and evaluates them against the assumptions made by cultural heritage professionals. It considers whether minimal description provides digitized collections with sufficient metadata to meet MPLP’s user-centered goals of improving access, sufficient context to ensure collections are understandable within their digital environments, and sufficient framework to facilitate data exchange across systems, all while considering MPLP within archival ecosystems that impact labor and resource allocation. The authors offer a set of questions under four themes that challenge these assumptions and promote critical evaluation of professional norms related to minimal description of digitized collections. Recommendations are presented that realign methods to develop nuanced strategies that maximize our ability to steward our collections, respect our labor, and serve our users.
This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, through grant LG-35-19-0012-19.
Dorpinghaus, Sarah; Lampert, Cory; Pattillo, Rebecca; and Herzinger, Kyna, "Maximizing Good: An Inquiry-Based Approach to Minimal Description for Online Archives" (2021). Library Faculty and Staff Publications. 327.