StaffGuide: CONTENTdm Cookbook

Recipes for Metadata Entry for the University of Arkansas Libraries


Field Name: Description
Requirement: Required (mandatory)
Repeatable: No (although there could be multiple dc.description elements in a collection, each with its own distinct field name. See below.)
Search: Yes
Hide: No
Vocabulary: No
Dublin Core (DC) Mapping: dc.description
MARC Mapping: 520 [8 ] $a
CONTENTdm Data Type: Text
Dublin Core Definition: An account of the resource. Description may include but is not limited to: an abstract, a table of contents, a graphical representation, or a free-text account of the resource.
UA Definition: An account of the content of the resource providing background and specifics about it comparable to what would appear on an exhibit label.

Enter a free-text account of the intellectual content of the resource, excluding information found in other metadata elements.  Provide information that will enhance keyword searching for the resource, but generally limit the Description to information that can be gleaned from the resource itself. The Notes field should be used for supplying additional information.

Consider including:

  • The names and descriptions of people, places, buildings, or entities depicted or discussed in the resource.
  • Transcriptions of signs, captions, etc. that appear in an image.
  • Addresses of buildings depicted (provided the address appears in the resource)
  • Pre-existing printed or handwritten text or captions from the recto/verso/margins of the item. Preface this text with “On verso,” “On recto,” etc. followed by a colon.
  • An indication the item has been translated. (Format is “[Language] translation of a [language] text.”)
  • Variant forms of names listed in controlled vocabulary fields when deemed important for access (e.g., CIA when United States. Central Intelligence Agency is the controlled form).

Generally omit from the Description terms denoting gender, race, or age, unless this information is considered important to bring out or is needed for context. For existing descriptions that are used as the basis for CONTENTdm metadata, generally remove outdated terms, or, if they are needed for context, update them to current terminology. If there is doubt about current terminology, leave such terms out.

Whenever possible, consider the intended audience, and use terminology appropriate for it. Use standard English-language grammar, capitalization, and punctuation. Spell out words, at least the first time they are referenced, rather than using abbreviations such as St. for Street, ca. for circa, Ark. for Arkansas, etc.

Include anything verbatim from the object in quotation marks (“…”), whether the verbatim quotation is incorporated into the text of the Description or included in the “On recto:” or “On verso:” statements. (Do not put “On recto:” or “On verso:” in quotation marks, however.)

As needed, also explain in the Description element the relationship of the Creator(s) and/or Contributor(s) to the item.

In the case of photographs, the name of the studio may be recorded in the Description field in addition to the Contributor(s) field.

Description vs. Transcript for textual content. Generally, use the Description field if the object is an image that includes some text. Use the Transcript field for written text if the object is text or primarily text. However, consider the length of the text in deciding in which field to place the text. Longer text may be included in Transcript field even if the object is an image.  

It is sometimes appropriate to use multiple, separate instances of the dc.description element within a single exhibit or collection. However, each instance must be given its own distinct field label. For example, in the case of newspapers, elements such as “Volume/Issue,” “Newspaper Publication Dates,” and “Frequency” might all be mapped to dc.description.


Dublin Core also allows for two more specific types of description elements. These are:

  • Abstract. An abstract is a summary of the resource. An abstract may be included as a refinement of the Description field if an abstract previously exists for the resource. The full text of the abstract may be copied into the field. This field should be searchable, visible, and non-repeatable.
    • Label: Abstract
    • DC Map: dc.description.abstract
    • MARC Map: 520 [3 ] $a
  • Table of Contents. A Table of Contents is a list of sub-units of the resource. A Table of Contents field may be included as a refinement of the Description field. Table of Contents may be used if there is a pre-existing Table of Contents and if the entire resource or the majority of the resource outlined in the Table of Contents will be included in the project. This field should be searchable, visible, and non-repeatable. When entering the table of contents manually, generally separate the highest-level divisions by a space, dash, space (e.g., Alcestis -- Heracles -- Children of Heracles -- Cyclops). If copying and pasting, accept the source formatting.
    • Label: Table of Contents
    • DC Map: dc.description.tableOfContents
    • MARC Map:  505 [8 ] $a

Handwritten diary kept by Brooks Hays between July 28, 1919 to October 6, 1919 during his time as a student in Washington, D.C.

Document by Marie Fry describing her grandmother's technique for sulfuring (drying) apples.

Dr. Rom's speech on Arkansas apples. This presentation was held as one in a series of lectures given in Giffels Auditorium in Old Main.

Charles Fisher family photograph. Eight adults and two children. George Fisher second from left. On verso: "Family of Charles Fisher at Beebe circa 1946. Rosemary [Fisher] in middle."

Boxed game includes board, pegs, dice, playing rules, and four life-sized cardboard faces of Tommy Robinson.

A tow truck is hauling a pickup truck into the Smithsonian Institute. A tricycle is in the back of the pickup. "Bill Clinton for President" is printed on the door of the pickup.

English translation of a French text.

Revision Date: 10/10/19