This post is simply some musings about what collections are, and what’s necessary to make them valuable.

One fascinating thing about digital/online collections is how incredibly varied they can be. Text-based, still images, images of texts, sounds, videos… no one’s managed to capture and transmit touch or taste or smell, so far as I know, but sight has long been the primary sense upon which we rely for information transmission, and sound the secondary one. (I’m thinking long-term and long-distance here, as opposed to in-person communication.)

So the medium isn’t key to defining a collection, though a digital collection is by definition digitized in some manner.

To call something a collection does imply that a number of different items are included. How many? That can vary tremendously. Dozens? Hundreds? Thousands? Millions? Perhaps that doesn’t matter as much as the fact that once a collection has over perhaps fifty items, what becomes important is how to find a given desired item. Searching is key, especially when the searcher is not already familiar with the collection’s contents.

Any search relies on metadata of some sort. The conclusion I am reaching is that coming up with metadata categories, and then terms, is absolutely key to making collections of any significant size actually usable and useful.

All the information in the world is useless if it’s piled in a random heap.