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Multilingual metadata, Cultural heritage, Chinese scrolls, Fan paintings


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore multilingual access in digital libraries and to present a case study of creating bilingual metadata records for the Tse-Tsung Chow Collection of Chinese Scrolls and Fan Paintings. The project, undertaken at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries, provides access to digital copies of calligraphic and painted Chinese scrolls and fans from the collection donated by Prof Tse-Tsung Chow (Cezong Zhou).

Design/methodology/approach – This paper examines the current approaches to multilingual indexing and retrieval in digital collections and presents a model of creating bilingual parallel records that combines translation with controlled vocabulary mapping.

Findings – Creating multilingual metadata records for cultural heritage materials is in an early phase of development. Bilingual metadata created through human translation and controlled vocabulary mapping represents one of the approaches to multilingual access in digital libraries. Multilingual indexing of collections of international origin addresses the linguistic needs of the target audience, connects the digitized objects to their respective cultures and contributes to richer descriptive records. The approach that relies on human translation and research can be undertaken in small-scale digitization projects of rare cultural heritage materials. Language and subject expertise are required to create bilingual metadata records.

Research limitations/implications – This paper presents the results of a case study. The approach to multilingual access that involves research, and it relies on human translation that can only be undertaken in small-scale projects.

Practical implications – This case study of creating parallel records with a combination of translation and vocabulary mapping can be useful for designing similar bilingual digital collections.

Social implications – This paper also discusses the obligations of holding institutions in undertaking digital conversion of the cultural heritage materials that originated in other countries, especially in regard to providing metadata records that reflect the language of the originating community.

Originality/value – The research and practice in multilingual indexing of cultural heritage materials are very limited. There are no standardized models of how to approach building multilingual digital

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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This is a postprint version of the article published in the Electronic Library. The final version may be found at