Revision: Metadata – 1102


Now that we are familiar with metadata, we can investigate historical sources with it. Answer the following questions and then create research questions you could answer using metadata searches for the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database. For this database, each individual voyage is the original data. Because ships often had many voyages, researchers created a "Voyage ID" and all metadata is attached to that data. For large amounts of information (big datasets), historians often need to create a unique ID, to which all other information is attached.

Learning goals

  1. Students will demonstrate the ability to answer questions using the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database.
  2. Students will demonstrate an understanding of metadata by composing research questions that are knowable and finite.


  1. Based on this table of Estimates, what was the total number of enslaved peoples embarked to the Americas?
  2. Find a reputable source (and cite it) for the current population of Minnesota: what is it?
  3. Using the database, what metadata would you use to "Configure columns" if you were interested in the history of childhood? Why?
  4. Why do you think not all the metadata is shown for every voyage?
  5. If you had to add one column to the standard metadata list, what would your metadata column be? (You can see your options under "Configure Columns")

Your questions

If you were a professional historian, how would you conduct metadata searches to find answers? What questions do you think this data might be able to answer? I don’t expect you to actually do the research, only to ask questions of what the metadata could tell you. You can focus on a theme of your choosing.


If I were to do research using this database, I would want to investigate what peoples were enslaved from around rivers that were sent to other areas around rivers. My hypothesis is that people enslaved from river areas might have been able to preserve food ways if they were taken to American areas with similar geography. To ask these questions I’d need to identify a set number of locations where the voyage began and location where the voyage ended. I’d need to create two lists of place, then run searches to find enslaved people that met my criteria. Once I had that list of people that came from rivers and arrived at rivers, I could investigate if we have records of food or cuisine in that region that reflects the originating region.