Items are the basic building blocks of the Archive. Each item represents a person, place, or thing and all its associated information. You may be familiar with the term “record” from working with other databases. If so, you can think of an item as a record in the Digital Archive database.

The information associated with an item can be metadata, a file attachment, or relationships to other items. Each of these kinds of associations are described in the sections that follow.


Metadata simply means information (data) about information. For example, the information in a photograph is the image itself which is a picture of something. The metadata for a photograph is the information about the image such as the subjects in the picture or the name of the photographer. The image itself does not contain this information (metadata) that describes the photo. In the Archive, the item for a photograph includes both the image itself and the metadata that describes it.

Metadata appears in fields with names like Title, Description, and Location. Not every item has every metadata field, only the ones that are relevant and for which we have information. Every item has these metadata fields:

  • Identifier – Four or five digit number that is unique to that item.
  • Title – Brief description of the item. Some items have more than one title. This is common for boats where the name changed over time.
  • Type – The kind of real-world object the item represents. Learn about Item Types.
  • Subject – What the item is about. Some items have more than one subject. Learn about Subjects.

Image or Document Attachment

Most items in the Archive have an image or document attached to them. Images are either photographs taken with a camera or scans created by a digital scanner. Documents are PDF files that contain information about the item in addition to the item’s metadata.


Relationships are a special kind of metadata that record how two or more items are connected to each other. For example, a man owned a boat, resided in a house, and was married to a woman. The words owned, resided in, and married to name the relationships that tell us how the man was connected to the boat and the house and the woman. Learn about Relationships.

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