Metadata, literally "data about data," which are associated with either an information system or an information object for purposes of description, administration, legal requirements, technical functionality, use and usage and preservation, play a critical role in ensuring the creation, management, preservation and use of trustworthy records. Recordkeeping metadata, of which one key type is archival description, play a particularly important role in documenting the various contexts (juridical-administrative, provenancial, procedural, documentary and technological) within which records are created and kept as they move across space and time.

Issues relating to the creation, capture, management and preservation of adequate metadata are, therefore, integral to any research study addressing the reliability and authenticity of permanent records, regardless of the community or agency within which they are being created. The Description Cross-domain Task Force addressed these issues on several fronts.

Research Questions

  • What is the role of descriptive schemas and instruments in records creation, control, maintenance, appraisal, preservation and use in traditional recordkeeping systems in the three focus areas?

  • What is the role of descriptive schemas and instruments in records creation, control, maintenance, appraisal, preservation, and use in emerging recordkeeping systems in digital and Web-based environments in the three focus areas? Do new tools need to be developed, and if so, what should they be? If not, should present instruments be broadened, enriched, adapted?

  • What is the role of descriptive schemas and instruments in addressing reliability, accuracy and authenticity requirements (including the InterPARES 1 Benchmark and Baseline Authenticity Requirements) concerning the records investigated by InterPARES 2?

  • What is the role of descriptive schemas and instruments in archival processes concerned with the long-term preservation of the records in question?

  • Do current interoperable frameworks support the interoperability of descriptive schema and instruments across the three focus areas? If not, what kinds of frameworks are needed?

  • What are the implications of the answers to the above questions for traditional archival descriptive standards, systems and strategies? Will they need to be modified to enable archival programs to meet new requirements, or will new ones need to be developed? If so, what should they be?

  • To what extent do existing descriptive schemas and instruments used in the sectors concerned with the focus areas addressed by this project (for example, the geo-spatial data community) support and inform requirements such as those developed by InterPARES 1? Will they need to be modified to enable these sectors to meet these requirements, or will new ones need to be developed? If so, what should they be?

  • What is the relationship between the role of descriptive schemas and instruments needed by the creator and those required by the preserver to support the archival processes of appraisal, preservation and dissemination? What tools are needed to support the export/import/exchange of descriptive data between systems?

  • What is the role of descriptive schemas and instruments in rights management and in identifying and tracking records components, versions, expressions, performances and other manifestations, and derivative works?

  • Is it important to be able to relate the record of artistic and scientific activity to the associated expression, performance, product, work or other manifestation of it and, if so, in what ways can descriptive activities facilitate it?


The Description Cross-domain applied several methods in the conduct of the following specific research activities: literary warrant analysis, metadata mapping, conceptual modeling, activity modeling, metamodeling and empirical instantiation. The research design was essentially sequential. It provided for: activities that were ongoing throughout InterPARES 2, activities that were independent of the timelines of any other InterPARES 2 task force, activities that could only take place as data were received from other task forces, and project completion activities.


Among the Description Cross-domain’s main outcomes were:

  • Development of a Metadata Schema Registry, the purpose of which is:
    1. To register, unambiguously, relevant metadata schemes and sets; to evaluate each against the Benchmark and Baseline requirements generated by the InterPARES 1 Project; and to make recommendations for how each might be extended or otherwise revised to address the reliability, authenticity and preservation needs of records created within the domain, community or sector to which they pertain.
    2. To provide a standardized framework by which any metadata schema or set could be assessed for its ability to address these needs, and which could be adopted by standards-setting bodies.
    3. To generate analytical data for the ISO working group (ISO TC46/SC11-WG1) during its development of the Recordkeeping Metadata Standard (ISO 23081).
  • Development of a Draft Metadata Specification Model, the purpose of which is:
    1. To identify an overall set of metadata requirements that specify which metadata need to be created, how, and by whom at all points within the Chain of Preservation and Business-driven Recordkeeping models developed by the Modeling Cross-domain Task Force.
    2. To develop a set of specifications for automated tools that can be used to assist with the creation, capture, management and preservation of essential metadata for active and preserved records.

    3. A draft Metadata Specification Model was developed for the Chain of Preservation Model. This draft Model is still a theoretical model that is awaiting validation through instantiation—both through walkthroughs based on the case studies conducted by the InterPARES 2 focus groups of specific implementations and by actual system building.

      The draft Metadata Specification Model for the Chain of Preservation Model can be found here.

  • Development of a Literary Warrant Database, the purpose of which is:
    1. To identify existing literary warrant (i.e., the mandate from law, professional best practices, professional literature and other social sources) requiring the creation and continued maintenance of archival description and other metadata supporting the accuracy, reliability, authenticity and preservation of records.
    2. To integrate this warrant into recommendations made by the Description and other InterPARES 2 Task Forces with regard to evaluating, extending or revising existing descriptive and metadata schemas as well as promoting the Metadata Specification Model.

    3. The Literary Warrant Database can be found here.


Public documents for the Description Cross-domain are located here.

To see the Description Cross-domain’s Research Design Statement, please click here.

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