In July of 2001, with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the University of Illinois at Urbana‐Champaign undertook a project to test the efficacy of using the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting to construct a search and discovery service focused on information resources in the domain of cultural heritage. To date, the Illinois project has indexed over two million Dublin Core metadata records contributed by 39 metadata repositories in the museum, academic library, and digital library project communities. These records describe a mix of digital and analog primary content. Our analysis of these metadata records demonstrates wide divergence in descriptive metadata practices and the use and interpretation of Dublin Core metadata elements. Differences are particularly notable by community. This article provides an overview of the Illinois project, presents quantitative data about divergent metadata practices and element usage patterns, and details implications for metadata providers and harvesting services.
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