I’ve been using Web Curator Tool (WCT) to curate the JISC website collection at UKWA since 2008. I’ve long been aware that the system offered me the opportunity to record a lot of metadata, in tabs called General, Annotations, Groups and Access. It’s a mix of technical metadata (about the gather / website) and descriptive metadata. It’s mainly of value to the curator who wants to keep track of what they’re doing with the website gathering; but WCT also allows us to create some descriptive metadata for exposure. At the bare minimum, we’re required to use Groups; despite its name, this component is actually a simple subject classification scheme, allowing me to tag all my websites with “Higher Education” for example. Once stored in the WCT database and rendered through Wayback Machine, this subject selection translates into this useful view of the collection.
Recently the British Library team approached all the users of the shared WCT tool. It seems that the curators involved in UKWA have been using these metadata fields slightly differently and the BL team have initiated a project to move towards more consistency. The project will involve deciding on definitive interpretations of how to use these fields, followed by a process of cleaning up legacy data stored in the system. Some of it is potentially useful, some of it not so useful; some is legacy from the earlier PANDAS phase of the project, mostly not needed, or entered into the wrong field.
As noted, a lot of this metadata is mainly to do with selection and evaluation decisions, curation information such as changes in status of the site, and as such it’s never been exposed anywhere except within WCT. However, one descriptive field will eventually end up exposed on the UKWA live site, and provide us cataloguer types an opportunity to describe the resources in more detail. It will appear on the Title Entry Page (TEP) for each instance.
I welcome any move towards exposing more descriptive metadata on the UKWA public site. I have always taken the view that the phrase which currently appears alongside a Title “The live site may provide more information” is not really very helpful in the context of a web archive, for three reasons. (1) we don’t want our users clicking away from UKWA; (2) the link to the live site may be dead by now, and; (3) as archivists and curators, I feel strongly that we are the ones who should be providing that “more information” in the shape of a catalogue description of some kind.
The JISC project sites, as a collection, have high evidentiary value as stages in development of very specific tools, services and activities that benefit the UK Higher Education community. The sites by themselves don’t always explain their history or intentions; I would argue that a lot of rich contextual detail about the reasons these sites existed (the JISC programme under which they were developed, the dates, the staff involved, the themes, the outputs) would help interpret the collection to the users and make it more intelligible.