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Best Practice: Plan for effective multimedia management


Best Practices by Data Life Cycle

Plan for effective multimedia management

Data Life Cycle stage(s): Preserve   Plan

Multimedia data present unique challenges for data discovery, accessibility, and metadata formatting and should be thoughtfully managed. Researchers should establish their own requirements for management of multimedia during and after a research project using the following guidelines. Multimedia data includes still images, moving images, and sound. The Library of Congress has a set of web pages discussing many of the issues to be considered when creating and working with multimedia data. Researchers should consider quality, functionality and formats for multimedia data. Transcriptions and captioning are particularly important for improving discovery and accessibility.

Storage of images solely on local hard drives or servers is not recommended. Unaltered images should be preserved at the highest resolution possible. Store original images in separate locations to limit the chance of overwriting and losing the original image.

Ensure that the policies of the multimedia repository are consistent with your general data management plan.

There are a number of options for metadata for multimedia data, with many MPEG standards (, and other standards such as PBCore (

The following web pages have sections describing considerations for quality and functionality and formats for each of still images, sound (audio) and moving images (video).

Sustainability of Digital Formats Planning for Library of Congress Collections:

Online, generic multimedia repositories and tools (e.g. YouTube, Vimeo, Flickr, Google Photos):

  • are low-cost (can be free)
  • are open to all
  • may provide community commenting and tagging
  • some provide support for explicit licenses and re-use
  • provide some options for valuable metadata such as geolocation
  • potential for large-scale dissemination
  • optimize usability and low barrier for participation
  • rely on commercial business models for sustainability
  • may have limits on file size or resolution
  • may have unclear access, backup, and reliability policies, so ensure you are aware of them before you rely upon them

Specialized multimedia repositories (e.g. MorphBank, LIFE):

  • provide domain-specific metadata fields and controlled vocabularies customized for expert users
  • are highly discoverable for those in the same domain
  • can provide assistance in curating metadata
  • optimize scientific use cases such as vouchering, image analysis
  • rely on research or institutional/federal funding
  • may require high-quality multimedia, completeness of metadata, or restrict manipulation
  • may not be open to all
  • may provide APIs for sharing or re-use for other projects
  • are recognized as high-quality, scientific repositories
  • may migrate multimedia to new formats (e.g. analog to digital)
  • may have restrictions on bandwidth usage

Some institutions or projects maintain digital asset management systems, content management systems, or other collections management software (e.g. Specify, KE Emu) which can manage multimedia along with other kinds of data projects or institutions should provide assistance:

  • may be mandated by institution
  • may be more convenient, e.g. when multiple data types result from a project
  • may not be optimized for discovery, access, or re-use
  • usually not domain-specific
  • may or may not be suitable for long-term preservation

Description Rationale

Multimedia metadata is particularly important for discovery as the objects do not contain text that can be indexed.

Additional Information

“Multimedia Semantics - The Role of Metadata”:

“Multimedia Semantics: Metadata, Analysis and Interaction”:




Cite this best practice:

DataONE Community Engagement & Outreach Working Group, DataONE  (July 01, 2010) "Best Practice: Plan for effective multimedia management". Accessed through the Data Management Skillbuilding Hub at on Aug 31, 2020


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