Metadata battles

Posted on 17 December 2014 by Thomasin

Here at DigitalNZ we enjoy an end-of-year Christmas list as much as the next person. This year we thought we could turn our data-obsessed eyes towards the metadata of our excellent content partners and compare and contrast their collections.

Who has the most “cats” in their collection? And who has the most "Christmas"?

These are serious questions that call for answers!

If you are a bit confused by the word ‘metadata’, this simply means the information which describes a digital item. For example, the metadata for a digital photograph would include the title, date, and location where the photograph was taken, as well as any other contextual information about the photograph.

A note before we begin: we’ve tried to compare collections of a similar size and type of material to allow for a fair contest.


Ministry of Culture and Heritage owns Te Papa when it comes to cats with 239 "cats" in its nearly 104,000 items, compared to 155 in Te Papa’s Collections Online.

Cats Mrs Chippy

Image: Harry McNeish's grave at Karori Cemetery with statue of his cat Mrs Chippy. Ministry of Culture and Heritage. CC-NC-SA.


The tables are turned when it comes to dogs. Ministry of Culture and Heritage has 171 “dogs” in their metadata, whereas Te Papa has an impressive 439!


And here's one now. He's thinking: "Sort it out Ministry of Culture and Heritage"...


Image: Dog. Berry & Co, circa 1920, Wellington. Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand. No known copyright restrictions.


If you’re looking for some nose-neighbour inspiration, hit up Auckland Libraries first. They are clear winners in the "moustache" department, with 2033 moustaches in their collection. The Alexander Turnbull Library has three times as many records and only 464 moustaches. Hang your moustache in shame Turnbull Library.

Moustaches Moustache

Image: 1/2 portrait of Mr Strange who has a waxed moustache, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 31-60865. No known copyright restrictions.


Actually, Auckland Libraries does very well with “beards” too, with the second most beards of all the collections in DigitalNZ (behind the mammoth Papers Past), with 695 beards. Auckland Libraries and facial hair. Who knew?


Image: Sir Saul Samuel, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 31-WPSCH37. No known copyright restrictions.


We've compared the four largest Kete digital repositories to see who has the most "Christmas" in their collection. Kete Horowhenua comes out on top, but Kete Hamilton is doing very well indeed (especially taking into account the size of its collection). Those Hamiltonians and their Christmas cheer.


When you compare the nearly 200 content partners in DigitalNZ, Upper Hutt has the most "Christmas" content (excluding Papers Past which dwarves all the other collections). That's some serious Christmassy activity coming out of Upper Hutt. Here are the top four "Christmas" content partners:

Christmas Top Four Christmas 2

Image: Hazelwoods Father Christmas 1967, Upper Hutt City Library. Photographer: Revelle Jackson. CC-BY-NC.


You are much more likely to get a “holiday” with the New Zealand Electronic Text Collection, which has 338 “holidays” in its collection, compared to 2 in Nelson Provincial Museum.


Nelson, why are you so anti-holiday? You’ve got such a nice climate. Live a little.


To end this metadata battle on a surreal note, Tauranga Memories has the fourth most “penguins” out of any collection in DigitalNZ. Even more than Te Papa!

What do the Te Papa penguins think about that? Probably something along these lines:


Image: Little Penguin, Eudyptula minor variabilis, collected 24 Nov 1994, Titahi Bay, Wellington, New Zealand. CC BY-NC-ND licence. Te Papa (OR.025037).

We've turned off comments here, but we'd still love to know your thoughts. Visit us on our Facebook Page @digitalnz or on Twitter @DigitalNZ to share any ideas or musings with the DigitalNZ team.