Cataloging Your Video


Cataloging means creating and organizing descriptive information in a structured way so that video can be found, used, and understood. Cataloging allows you to expand on the basic metadata you have acquired, and should help you better access your content. A catalog may include descriptive information, contextual information, technical information, rights information, keywords and so on. To ensure future access, especially for larger collections, some kind of cataloging is critical.

An example of a video catalog.
An example of a video catalog.

Be forewarned that building a catalog is a labor-intensive process and that cataloging requires skills and knowledge of the video content. Rather than doing it yourself, you may want to work with an institution with trained staff, such as an archive or library. You can start, however, by making a simpler inventory — a list of your media that contains only the most essential information — which can eventually grow into a full catalog.

A Scenario: Steps Toward Building a Catalog

The Institute for Democracy has a video collection that documents democracy movements worldwide. As part of its mandate, it provides access to the collection to researchers. The Institute maintains a simple inventory of its videos in an Excel spreadsheet.

Miyoko, a graduate student, comes to the Institute to research Chinese democracy movement activists. She uses the inventory to narrow down her search, but since the metadata is limited, she has to view a few dozen videos to identify the ones that are about the activists she is researching. Still, she eventually finds what she is looking for.

The Institute starts to host more and more researchers like Miyoko who are interested in the video collection, and realizes that it needs a more robust way for them to find what they are looking for. First the Institute assesses their existing capacity and hires Grace, an archivist. Grace consults with researchers to learn how they want to find content, evaluates the collection, and assesses existing metadata standards. She then chooses Dublin Core as a metadata standard, and selects Filemaker Pro as a database platform. Grace works with a programmer to build the database. Once the database is set up, she begins cataloging newly acquired videos in it. She also recruits and supervises interns to catalog the existing collection. Eventually, records are created for all of the videos in the Institute’s collection, and researchers are given access to the database.


Protect sensitive information

Before you create a catalog, identify videos or information that need to be kept private. Identify videos that cannot be published or shared at all, and videos that can be shared, but that contain information that needs to be restricted, such as the identities of people depicted or the videographer.

What’s Next

Getting Started
What you need to build a catalog.

Types of Metadata
A list of the most important types of information to include in your catalog.

Structure and Rules
Cataloging is all about structure and rules.

Tools for Inventories and Catalogs
Some accessible tools for building your catalog.

  • Cataloging is labor-intensive, and requires training and quality control.
  • Before cataloging, start by making an inventory of your collection.
  • Assess whether you need a catalog, and whether you have the resources to build one.
  • Start cataloging new videos first. Set up a process for cataloging the backlog later.
  • Source metadata, chain of custody, descriptive information, and security restrictions are among the most important metadata to catalog for human rights evidentiary video.
  • Define your metadata structure and rules, and document them in a cataloging manual or data dictionary.
  • Using metadata standards can make your work easier and your catalog more interoperable.
  • You can use a spreadsheet to make a simple catalog, or a database for a more complex catalog.
Key Concept: Interoperability

Using metadata standards ensures that your metadata can be more easily used and understood by others.
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Key Concept: Data Model

A data model defines how metadata is structured and organized in a catalog.
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Key Concept: Controlled Vocabulary

Catalogs use controlled vocabularies to ensure consistency and findability.
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Key Concept: Metadata

Metadata is the basis of cataloging.
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Key Concept: Metadata Standard

Cataloging relies on standardized structures and rules for creating metadata.
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Key Concept: Findability

The primary purpose of cataloging is to enable and improve findability.
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The Archiving Workflow

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