Will Metadata Replace Archival Description? A Commentary

  • Wendy Duff


Heather MacNeil and David Wallace have provided two cogent and insightful discussions on the pros and cons of metadata replacing archival description. On the surface, the two papers seem to be advocating two opposing points of view. Heather MacNeil suggests that archival description should be performed by archivists after records have outlived their usefulness to their creator. David Wallace posits that description at the end of the life cycle causes backlogs, and the loss of vital contextual information. To solve these problems he recommends that creators or systems generate descriptions during records creation and use or what has been traditionally called the active stage of the life cycle. These two papers provide an excellent opportunity to explore this vital issue.


Cet article compare et oppose les principaux concepts de méta-information et de description archivistique écrits par Heather McNeil et David Wallace. Il met en lumière les similitudes des deux articles et examine leurs divergences. L'article conclut en soutenant que les archivistes manquent présentement de connaissances suffisantes pour répondre aux questions fondamentales concernant le rôle de la méta-information et de la description archivistique formelle. L'article souligne la nécessité d'un programme de recherches qui étudierait les besoins de la clientèle des archives et identifierait les procédés qui protégeraient l'intégrité et l'impartialité des documents et assurerait la saisie de l'information contextuelle pertinente.

Author Biography

Wendy Duff
Wendy Duff is currently working on her doctorate at the University of Pittsburgh. Previously she has been the Coordinator of Technical Services at the Provincial Library, a teacher in the Nova Scotia Community College Library Technicians Course, and Librarian at the Public Archives of Nova Scotia. She has also taught a course on the Organization of Knowledge at Dalhousie's School of Library and Information Studies. She presently serves as an ACA member on the Planning Committee on Descriptive Standards and on the International Congress of Archives Ad hoc Commission on Descriptive Standards.
How to Cite
Duff, Wendy. 1995. “Will Metadata Replace Archival Description? A Commentary”. Archivaria 39 (May), 33-38. https://www.archivaria.ca/index.php/archivaria/article/view/12066.

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