How Metadata is Changing Architectural History

Gabrielle Esperdy explores the development of an online encyclopedia of American architecture — and argues that metadata is a crucial tool for future historians.

For several years Gabrielle Esperdy has been part of a team working on the development of SAH Archipedia — an online encyclopedia of American architecture sponsored by the Society of Architectural Historians.

On Places, Esperdy explores the critical challenge of creating structural and descriptive metadata for the new resource — and argues that the digital platform has the potential "not only to publish scholarship but to produce it."

"While metadata is finally getting attention," she writes, "it’s still not getting much respect. It remains the stepchild of authorship, a technicality we assume others will handle — namely, all those indexers, librarians and cataloguers who’ve been engaged in something akin to metadata creation for a couple of centuries (think Library of Congress Subject Headings, the New York Times Index, or the Avery Index to Architectural Periodicals). If in earlier centuries — in the print-only era — that division of labor made sense, today it is an obsolete holdover that should be challenged by every 21st-century author; for in the digital era the creation of metadata is essential authorial territory."

Full Story: Building Data: Field Notes on the Future of the Past

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