It was my pleasure to work with Rachel Heery for more than a decade on metadata-related activities. Rachel was one of the early Dublin Core enthusiasts, having joined the community for the second DC workshop in Warwick, UK. She became one of the mainstays of progress in those early days, active in the various architecture working groups trying to wrestle data model details into place. Subsequently she became one of the leaders of the metadata registry efforts, and also spearheaded what is perhaps her most important single contribution to the Dublin Core community. Her work on application profiles is an essential piece of making the plethora of different metadata standards work together, and if we have a prayer of reaping a useful whole from the metadata babble on the Web, it is due in part to this work.
Rachel was the colleague we all want to have. She was dedicated to the work, steady and hardworking, and thoughtful about what was necessary for further progress. Rachel was unencumbered by the excesses of ego that hamper so much effort in our domain, but she was no pushover. She pushed back and defended positions on their merits, but I cannot think of a single instance where she ever indulged rancor or vitriol in the prosecution of what she thought was the right path. She was good-humored, professional, and persistent.
We emulate those we admire, and I have often found myself over the years using a phrase that signaled, from Rachel, an objection worthy of discussion… a sort of lilting “Hang on…!” Those who have worked with her will hear echoes of the tone and inflection that made the phrase hers, and commanded respectful attention, a flag that something was not quite right. I always think of her when I say it, and will always try to use it in the service of the honest brokerage of common goals that characterized Rachel’s efforts.
I live now in the city where I last enjoyed Rachel’s collegiality, and I recall with sad fondness taking a picture with her camera of her with her sister, if memory serves, against the backdrop of the cargo cranes of the port of Seattle. It was a beautiful autumnal evening, and a crew of DC conferees was headed to Winslow on the Bainbridge ferry to enjoy some hard-earned revelry at the Harbor Pub. We were all struck with the beauty of the day, the scene, the freshness of the air, and gratitude for the good work we were privileged to engage together. That gratitude is undimmed, even as preparations for this year’s DC conference proceed apace. But, hang on…! Where is Rachel?