Gathering Places: Applying Metadata Standards to Religious Communities in Milwaukee

Corinne Kronschnabel, “Gathering Places: Applying Metadata Standards to Religious Communities in Milwaukee”
Mentor: Christopher Cantwell, History

Religion is a complex topic that reaches deep into personal and cultural biases, and therefore is often difficult to categorize. On the other hand, the metadata we use to tag and organize information about religion relies on simplicity and clarity. How can these two things that appear to function in different capacities work together? This presentation explores how metadata standards can be applied to religion by focusing on the project Gathering Places: Religion and Community in Milwaukee. Gathering Places was started in 2018 with the goal of documenting the history of Milwaukee’s places of worship (e.g. churches, mosques, synagogues, sacred sites, and more). Research and findings were recorded on the Gathering Places website ( which utilizes the Omeka platform. The use of this platform allows for the data collected in past years to be analyzed and categorized to increase accessibility for visitors to the site, as well as explore how exactly metadata can be applied to religious historical data. Features such as the tagging system have been streamlined, and improvements were made to increase functionality of the site. By improving and condensing different features, decisions had to be made regarding the categorization of religious topics and phenomena, therefore reflecting how exactly religion is perceived in a historical context. The interaction of metadata standards and the Gathering Places project seeks to situate religious information within their global, theological, and social contexts. This project can set an example for future religious projects that seek to document places of worship in other locations across the United States.


  1. Excellent project! You do a great job of explaining how difficult it is to use tags with religious traditions, places, communities, etc. How do you decide about the “theological tradition” tag? Do you ask the community leaders? I was surprised that St. Paul’s Episcopal Church was tagged Protestant evangelical. Is that the group’s self designation?

    Thanks for this wonderful presentation!

  2. Corinne, I really enjoyed this, thanks so much for your insightful work! I was particularly struck by your discussion of how metadata engages with change over time, and how this system of categorization can recognize the fluidity of religious communities. Along with simplicity and clarity, metadata is also about fixity, and your responding to that in an effective way. Excellent!

  3. Really excellent presentation. Very thoughtful and important practical work! Thank you for sharing!

  4. Great job! You’ve done good work in demonstrating the juggling act in which scholars engage in their labeling and classification processes. I also have a similar question to that asked above: did you decide to classify based on insider self-labels, or by some other sort of criteria? Thanks for this — what you’ve presented is poised, clear, and engages important questions!

  5. Thank you, Corinne, this is such an important work, and brillantly presented! I think this is exactly the kind of conversation we need to bring researchers of religion and data curators together.

  6. Very good explanation of valuable work; thanks! (I would tag St. Paul’s Episcopal, my church, as Mainline Protestant instead of Evangelical Protestant.)

  7. This was excellent! Great work. You do a fantastic job describing the tension between the complexity of lived religious experience and the relative fixity of metadata standards. How did you imagine the potential audience for this project as you made the choices you did? This topic would make for an excellent workshop/panel, as we’ve encountered many similar questions in our work on the American Religious Sounds Project. If we ever organize such a thing, it would be great to have you participate!

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