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Can someone explain to me how to deal with mapping the following to
MODS?

<keyword>geography</keyword>
<keyword>public space</keyword>
<keyword>Russia</keyword>

In others words, we have data that represents "keyword" categories, but
there is only one element; it is totally flat.  A tool will do the
transformation, so no human interpretation involved.

How best to do this?

Options I see are:

1)

     <subject>
         <topic>geography</topic>
     </subject>
     <subject>
         <topic>public space</topic>
     </subject>
     <subject>
         <topic>Russia</topic>
     </subject>

2)

     <subject>
         <topic>geography</topic>
         <topic>public space</topic>
         <topic>Russia</topic>
     </subject>

My hunch is the correct answer is really context-specific, and so we
have to flip a coin.  Is that right?

Bruce