Columbia Crisis -- Tagging Guidelines and a Sample Document

The Columbia Crisis of '68's Online Exhibit and Digital Archive plans to make use of tagging and metadata for three primary purposes:

  • As the site wishes to serve as a useful and effective educational resource for its visitors, the creation of metadata will undoubtedly provide a thorough comprehension of the event's historical context. The metadata involved will also work to help visitors understand the significance of particular individuals and organizations to the protest as a whole. There are countless names and concepts referenced within these documents that may confuse those unfamiliar with the event; this metadata will ultimately clear up such confusion.
  • A major feature of the site's digital archive is its advanced search function. The tagging of documents and images will aid the process of searching amongst our collection. Through the creation of index terms (important names and topics involved), and the standardized required information (title, creator, date, document type, source, and subject matter), users will be far better able to access the documents and/or images that they specifically desire.
  • The provided metadata will also help to link documents and images to related items within the digital archive. Since the items will be viewed online and out of the context of the original collection, the links between items will help to create an organizational understanding of the real, tangible Activism and Protest Collection at the Columbia University Archives.

Documents, scanned through OCR, will be tagged using a TEI format that will prove applicable for both xml and html. In order to ensure that our metadata becomes standardized (in that the same informational terms appear for each item), we will treat each document in the same manner. Each document will require an entry for the following terms: title, creator, date, document type, source/repository, and copyright information. Even if some of these categories may be unknown or indeterminable, the staff will still complete an entry for that category (with whatever he is able to provide, or a statement of 'unknown').

Taking care to these six required categories will ensure that all documents are treated in the same, standardized manner and that all available information is provided. These categories will be completed as succinctly and as clearly as is possible, in an effort to ease visitors' search efforts. Photographs and other images (flyers, banners, etc) will also be tagged using the six required categories, as well as detailed descriptions as to their depiction. In addition to the six categories, all items will be tagged with relevant descriptive words (or index terms), including referenced names, organizations, and concepts. The addition of index terms will be of even further assistance to visitors who search for such words within the search engine (i.e. — Students for a Democratic Society, capitalism, Harlem).

For many phrases, concepts, and names that may be used in a casual manner, yet are unfamiliar to users, our metadata will link to biographical/supplementary explanations of these items. In numerous cases, it may make available the relevant entry within our Glossary Page in a separate window. Additionally, since many organizations are often referred to only by their acronyms, we will determine a coding feature that will enable us to direct both the acronym and the full title of an organization to the same tag (i.e. - Institute for Defense Analyses = IDA; Students' Afro-American Society = SAS).

As the site's creators are especially geared toward visitor engagement, we hope to allow the opportunity for our users to collaborate in the tagging process. If a visitor feels that there is an alternate, perhaps more well-known or more accurate term that could be used for a particular document or photograph, we will invite him or her to make this suggestion. The site's primary function is to provide the most effective and valuable educational experience that is possible, so the metadata should subsequently coordinate with the knowledge base of our visitors.


The following is an example of the tagging process for one document that will definitely be included within both our Online Exhibit and Digital Archive. It is a typed letter addressed to President Grayson Kirk of Columbia University. It was composed by Mark Rudd, a Columbia junior, President of Columbia's chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), and media-proclaimed 'leader' of the '68 protests. His words, particularly in this case, could be read as representative of his organization and the majority of the protestors. This letter begins with a public statement recently made by President Kirk, in which he criticizes student protestors, describing their efforts as "inchoate nihilism" and their objective as "destruction." Rudd's memorandum to Kirk is significant, for it presents his response to these charges, as well as what he describes as the "opening shot in a war of liberation." I do not currently have an image of this document on my hard drive, though I do have a transcription in my possession. I want to provide this transcription in the case that anyone should like to gather further historical understanding of this event. It may also be helpful when viewing the tagging information I am listing below.

Click below for transcription:

Mark Rudd's Letter to President Kirk -- May 22, 1968


Document type Memorandum
Source Columbia University, University Protest & Activism Collection, 1968
Title Student Memorandum to President Grayson Kirk
Creator Mark Rudd
Date April 22, 1968
Repository Columbia University Archives, Butler Library
Copyright University Archives, Columbia University in the City of New York
Selected Image
Head Brief description of letter's contents and its significance to understanding the event
Title Letter to President Kirk
Library of Congress subject headings Columbia UniversityStudents; Columbia UniversityAdministration; Student-Administrators relationships; Rudd, Mark; Kirk, Grayson L., (Grayson Louis), 1903-; Truman, David Bicknell, 1913-; Students for a Democratic Society (U.S.); Strike Coordinating Committee, SCC
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