Costume Core: Metadata for Historic Clothing

  • Arden Kirkland Syracuse University
Keywords: costume history, historic clothing, fashion history, material culture, metadata schema, metadata standards, artifact analysis, controlled vocabularies, linked data, data remediation, digital collections, visual thesaurus


illustrations, photographs, and other related materials. Where collection managers follow existing standards, they often interpret them in different ways, and need specific guidelines for greater cross-collection consistency. To better represent significant aspects of historic clothing, catalogers must collect additional metadata. Defining and populating granular fields will allow records to be sorted and filtered in ways specific to the needs of costume history researchers and can even enable the use of visual search tools. Experiments along these lines have led to the development of Costume Core: an application profile to provide guidance for using existing metadata schemas and controlled vocabularies to fill in the gaps with added metadata elements and vocabulary terms. Costume Core can be used not only in the development of new digital collections, but also to remediate existing datasets. This project initially grew out of work to develop a digital collection of the artifacts in the Vassar College Costume Collection. An inter-institutional project called Historic Dress, at, has fostered further testing. To make this project’s workflow more convenient and efficient across a wider range of institutions with holdings of historic clothing, a visual cataloging tool and thesaurus are being developed at


Work on Costume Core has been the result of conversations and collaboration over 20 years with costume historians, students, librarians, instructional technologists, digital humanities practitioners, and computer scientists. At Vassar: Holly Hummel, Ginny Jones, Sarah Goldstein, Matthew Slaats, Joanna DiPasquale, Kenisha Kelly. For HistoricDress: Kiki Smith, Elisa Lanzi, Marla Miller, Nancy Rexford, Jon Berndt Olsen, Tom Scheinfeldt, Matthew Mattingly, Dave Hart. My mentors for digital libraries: Michael Lesk, Jian Qin, Marcia Lei Zeng, and Susan Jane Williams. From the costume history community (mainly through the Costume Society of America and Dig-Cost-Coll online discussion group): Kathi Martin, Gayle Strege, Marlise Schoeny, Helen McLallen, Arlesa Shephard, Kristen Miller Zohn, Renee Walker-Tuttle, Lindie Ward, Marcella Martin, Amanda Sikarskie, Connie Frisbie Houde, Daniel Caulfield-Sriklad, Monica Sklar, Ykje Wildenborg.

Author Biography

Arden Kirkland, Syracuse University

Arden Kirkland is an independent digital librarian, providing services for digital collections and online learning. She is an Adjunct Instructor for the iSchool at Syracuse University. As Project Coordinator for the IMLS-funded Design for Learning program, she led the development of a series of online modules about online teaching, released as Open Educational Resources (OER). Her years of work in higher education, especially at Vassar College, have included a focus on college students’ active participation in the construction of multimedia digital collections. Other recent projects include web development in Omeka for,, and the Hudson Valley Visual Arts Collections Consortium ( She holds an MSLIS from the iSchool at Syracuse University, along with an MFA in Costume Design from Rutgers University.