Family History Metadata group formed to assist with picture data preservation

The Family History Metadata Working Group (FHMWG), a public initiative for family history technology companies, announces its was formed and launched Feb. 27 at the RootsTech Conference in Salt Lake City, UT. FHMWG says it will help organize and provide standards to create shared industry best practices for digital preservation. The FHMWG is a collaboration between public organizations and private companies that include founding members from FamilySearch, MemoryWeb, Vivid-Pix, the Family History Information Standards Organisation and The Permanent Legacy Foundation.

FHMWG seeks to help develop metadata standards to “keep your family memories alive.” To do this, the working group is looking to enhance the value of digital media about people by refining the process and capability for embedding metadata directly into the digital media, the group said. Metadata includes critical information about media such as its contents, creation date, creators, and copyrights. The initial focus of the FHMWG will be on key metadata areas appreciated by family historians such as names, dates, locations, events, and captions. Interested parties can contact the working group via

The FHMW will produce guidelines for technology platforms that wish to enable the consistent capturing, sharing, interoperability, and preservation of family history metadata.

“Many people may still remember and cherish the handwritten notes on photographs that our grandparents scribbled to preserve our family traditions,” says Dr. Robert Friedman, Executive Director of the Permanent Legacy Foundation, one of the founding members of the FHMWG. “Who would ever think to erase those notes and letters from our past? I think most people would be disappointed to know that is what usually happens to their digital photos today,

Digital preservation is a growing field of interest for private industry and an area of concern for historians and researcher. As the digital age enters a period of maturity and digital technology has saturated modern life, immediate action is needed to ensure that information captured today persists for generations to come, the group says. Although images are being captured and preserved by billions of people online, their full potential to preserve memories for future generations remains unrealized without contextualizing metadata:

In the era of born-digital media – content captured on phones, cameras and other devices – basic information about the time, date, location, and device is recorded but rarely does information about the scene or the people depicted make its way into that file. Worse still, when that file is uploaded to a digital platform, it is all too often stripped away of its metadata. When descriptions, dates, and tags are added on most commercial platforms, that information is saved to the platform operators database and not to the media itself. When files are downloaded are moved between platforms, the data does not travel with the files, resulting in the loss of the owner’s hard work and critical historical information.

“FHMWG founding members like Vivid-Pix and MemoryWeb provide solutions that already embed metadata,” said Rick Voight, CEO of Vivid-Pix. “We joined this initiative because we see that by establishing standards the Family History community will be able to improve the seamless transfer of information between our and other solutions for our shared customers.”