Geog482/582 Autumn 2017
Assignment 5
Working with Metadata and XML

Assignment Data

●Data from Assignment 4

●“WAGIC_ArcGIS.xlsx”, which can be foundhere.

Learning Objectives

●Understand why it is important to create and maintain metadata

●Understand how metadata is developed and used in a GIS workflow

●Practice creating and updating metadata

●Understand different metadata standards


●A complete answer sheet answering Questions 1 and 3 provided below.

●XML files from Question 2 saved into a zip file.

1. Introduction

Given the enormous amount of spatial data from many different sources, how do you find what you really need? Metadata provides a way to document a dataset so that potential users will be able to find it and evaluate it to see if it’s suitable for their needs. Metadata also improves data sharing between users both within and across organizations. Metadata is defined as data about data; when it was created, how it was created, what the accuracy is, who is responsible for it, can you share it, etc. GIS data without metadata can be problematic to use – what are the limitations due to accuracy, scale, or currency, what do the attributes mean? Successful metadata creation and implementation requires thought and planning, and can be time consuming, but it is an integral part of GIS data activities.

In Assignment 4, your group created and populated a portion of a geodatabase for green infrastructure system in one of the municipalities of King County. In this assignment, after learning some basic, yet important, concepts of metadata, you will practice creating and updating metadata for feature datasets and associated data from Assignment 4 using ArcGIS applications.

XML stands for Extensible Markup Language. Since ArcGIS metadata is stored using XML, you should understand how to read metadata in XML. You will also learn about the basic structure of XML and practice working with it in this assignment.

Metadata Standards and Metadata Style

While metadata is vital to our understanding of data, it would be difficult to understand each other’s metadata if they are documented in different ways. Metadata standards are needed to solve this kind of problem.

Metadata standards provide a common set of terminology, definitions, and expected values for the documentation of geospatial data. Standards provide a guideline for what information should be documented, in what way, and how much documentation is needed to minimally comply with that standard.

Two of the most commonly used metadata standards are the US Federal Geographic Data Committee (FDGC) standard and the International Standards Organization (ISO) standard. The FGDC standard is called the Content Standard for Digital Geospatial Metadata (CSDGM). It is a standard designed to provide a complete description of a data source. Because it is quite detailed, various states and regions have created their own metadata standards to simplify (reduce) the amount of information that should be recorded. For example, Washington State (Washington State Geographic Information Council – WAGIC) has developed a working metadata standard using a subset of the FGDC CSDGM. This standard serves a minimum requirement for significant spatial data. The state encourages the use of full FGDC standard when it is practical. For more details on WA State metadata standard, see

The International Standards Organization (ISO) standards include ISO 19115 and ISO 19139. The ISO 19115, Geographic Information – Metadata, designed for international use, attempts to satisfy the requirements of all existing metadata standards. It allows for either general or detailed descriptions of data sources, makes some allowances for describing resources other than data, and has a small number of mandatory elements.The more recent 19139 standard,Geographic Information—Metadata—Implementation, provides aschemathat defines how ISO 19115 metadata should be stored. ISO member nations can create their own ISO 19115 profile as long as it includes the core elements. To find out more about ISO metadata standards, visit theISO Web site.

Which metadata standard to choose largely depends on who will use the data. For example, if your data will be used within the U.S., you can choose either the FGDC CSDGM or the ISO metadata standard. If you think that your data may be shared with an international organization, then you should choose the ISO metadata standard.Currently, U.S. federal government agencies provide metadata that complies with the FGDC standard. However, recently the FGDC has encouraged the transition to ISO standard if a government agency or an organization is able to do so.

ArcGIS provides several predefined metadata styles that comply with different metadata standards. A metadata style is the window through which you view and edit your metadata – it determines which metadata elements to display and defines how their data values appear. ArcGIS (10.2) supports the following metadata styles: FGDC CSDGM Metadata, INSPIRE Metadata Directive, ISO 19139 Metadata Implementation Specification, Item Description, and North American Profile of ISO19115 2003. The metadata style descriptions below are quoted from ESRI’s Help (

ISO 19139 Metadata Implementation Specification:This style lets you view and edit a complete metadata document that complies with ISO standard 19139,Geographic information — Metadata — XML schema implementation, export metadata in this format, and validate it using the standard's XML Schemas. Use this style to create metadata that complies with ISO standard 19115,Geographic information — Metadata.

North American Profile of ISO 19115 2003: This style lets you view and edit a complete metadata document that complies withNorth American Profile of ISO 19115:2003 – Geographic information – Metadata, export metadata in this format, and validate it using the ISO 19139 XML Schemas.

●INSPIRE Metadata Directive:This style lets you view and edit a complete ISO 19139 metadata document that adheres to the INSPIRE Implementing Rules, export metadata in the ISO 19139 format, and validate it using the ISO 19139 XML Schemas.

●FGDC CSDGM Metadata:This style lets you view and edit metadata following the FGDCContent Standard for Digital Geospatial Metadata (CSDGM)guidelines, export metadata in this standard's XML format, and validate it using the CSDGM XML DTD.

●Item Descriptionis another style that is supported by ArcGIS. This style is the default metadata style, but it doesn’t adhere to specific metadata standards. This style is designed to facilitate providing information that is used by ArcGIS, and lets you view and edit a simple metadata document.

Question 1: What are the most commonly used metadata standards? What are major metadata styles that are currently supported by ArcGIS? What is ArcGIS metadata format? What are the relationships between ArcGIS metadata format and different metadata styles?

2. Working with Metadata in ArcGIS

In ArcGIS you work with metadata mostly in ArcCatalog.You view and edit an item's metadata in theDescriptiontab, either inArcCatalogor by opening theItem Descriptionwindow from otherArcGIS for Desktopapplications. The information available for viewing and editing in ArcCatalog is determined by the current metadata style. Since you will use FGDC format for you metadata, illustrations and discussions will be focused on FGDC when applicable. This section introduces a general workflow to working with metadata in ArcGIS, followed by detailed explanations of each of the steps in the workflow.

The general workflow suggested by ESRI includes the following steps:

  1. Choose a metadata style that’s appropriate for the standard you need to follow.
  2. View the item's ArcGIS metadata. Many properties of the item are added automatically.
  3. If the item has existing metadata created before ArcGIS 10.0, upgrade the item's metadata to the ArcGIS metadata format.
  4. Create or edit the item's metadata in the ArcGIS metadata Editor.

●Add whatever content is appropriate for your organization and for the item.

●After editing the information on a page, make sure no errors are listed at the top.

  1. Save your changes and stop editing the item's metadata.
  2. Publish your metadata if it is needed (not applicable for this assignment).

Choosing Metadata Style

To create or edit FGDC metadata, the first step is to choose the FGDC metadata style.Item Descriptionis the default metadata style that lets you see and edit basic metadata properties/contents for an item, such as summary (abstract), description (purpose), credits, keywords/tags, extent, scale, and use limitations.


If you want to view more information about the item or describe it in more detail than you can with the defaultItem Description style, or your metadata needs to be comply with a metadata standard. In that case, you need to choose a different metadata style to get access to the complete set of metadata.

●Tochoose the FGDC metadata style, in ArcCatalog, click CustomizeArcCatalog Options→ click the Metadata tab → select FGDC CSDGM Metadata from the dropdown menu → Click OK.

Note: if you are in the Description tab when you choose a new metadata style, you will not see the results of the change immediately. You will need to click another tab in ArcCatalog or Item Description window, then click the Description tab for the new metadata style to take effect.

Upgrading Existing FGDC Metadata

Beginning with ArcGIS 10.0, metadata content is stored in a new internal format, known asArcGIS Metadata.Metadata created in the current release of ArcGIS is ArcGIS metadata. To manage FGDC style metadata in the current release of ArcGIS, you must firstupgradethe metadata using the Upgrade Metadata tool. When you view an item with existing FGDC-format metadata you will be notified immediately that it must be upgraded to the ArcGIS metadata format before it can be used in theDescriptiontab (as shown below).

Click Yes to upgrade the existing FGDC metadata content right away. The Upgrade Metadata tool opens and the Upgrade Type is automatically set to FGDC_TO_ARCGIS. This process copies all existing FGDC content to the appropriate ArcGIS Metadata elements.

Viewing Metadata Content

By default, metadata is automatically updated when you view it in the Description tab. ArcGIS gets the item’s properties and records them in the appropriate metadata elements. When you copy a data or import feature classes to a geodatabase, their metadata are copied as well. If an item doesn’t have metadata, ArcGIS will create it once the item is added to and viewed in ArcCatalog. The spatial information of your data (e.g., extents and the coordinate system) and count of features are created automatically by ArcCatalog. If any of this information changes as you edit or update your data (for example, by projecting it to another coordinate system), ArcCatalog will automatically update it.

When ArcGIS is configured to use the FGDC CSDGM Metadata style, theArcGIS Metadataheading appears at the bottom of the item's brief description. Metadata content created and managed using the Descriptiontabis displayed under theArcGIS Metadataheading, such as any item properties added automatically by ArcGIS, and any FGDC metadata content that corresponds to the basic item description. Any FGDC metadata created in a version earlier than ArcGIS 10.0 is displayed under theFGDC Metadata (read-only)heading.

An item's metadata can contain large amount of detailed information. It is divided into sections in the display of the Description tab that corresponds to those in the ArcGIS metadata editor. If a green asterisk (*) appears next to a metadata element's name or value such as the Title and Content Type in the figure below, it means the value is automatically updated in the metadata by ArcGIS according to the item's intrinsic properties.

The “read-only” FGDC metadata is not automatically updated by the current version of ArcGIS unless you upgrade it to ArcGIS metadata using the Upgrade Metadata tool illustrated above.

Creating and Editing Metadata using FGDC Format

You create (if no metadata exists) and edit an item’s metadata in the ArcGIS metdata editor. Clicking the Edit button in the Descriptions tab will open the editor.

As shown in the figure above, the editor’s table of contents shows a list of pages that can be used to edit the metadata content under three headings (Overview, Metadata, and Resource). Each page defines different groups of metadata elements. These metadata elements are the information that you need to enter or edit based on the metadata standard that you would follow.

The table of contents gives you an overall idea of whether an item's metadata meets rules of a particular metadata style. If there are any problems with the information provided on a page, the page will have a red Xin the table of contents (e.g., Citation, Constrains, and Quality in the figure above). Pages with no errors have a green check markinstead. A plain pagein the table of contents has no rules concerning the information it lets you manage.

When there is a problem with an element (value) on a certain page, it will have a red background. Typically such warning happens when a mandatory value has not been provided, or a wrong type of value may have been provided. For example, in the example below, Summary and Description are required metadata elements that need to be provided. To make it easier to identify a problem or an error in the metadata editor, ArcGIS lists all errors that occur on a page at the top of that page. If you click the error in the list, the page will scroll to the place where you can fix the problem. If you are not sure what information to provide in a metadata element, you can hover the pointer over its input control to see the text appearing at the bottom of the editor explaining what is expected.

To get a complete set of standard-compliant metadata, the best practice is reviewing each element that has red background in the page that has red x, and providing necessary information, until all the red x’s become green marks. However, since some metadata elements may not apply to an item, or you simply are not able to obtain required information, it is not uncommon that some elements may be left blank. You can always come back to update the metadata when the relevant information is available.

Exporting Metadata to XML

Metadata in ArcGIS is stored in XML. After creating your metadata content, if you want to share information about your item with others through a site, you mustexportit to an FGDC-compliant XML file that can be published to the site. In this assignment, you will not publish your metadata to any of the sites, but it is important to know how to export metadata to XML files for the purpose of data sharing. There are many programs that can be used to view XML files, such as IE or Notepad ++ (open source application that can be downloaded from A text editor like Notepad ++ makes it easier to edit an XML file.

In ArcCatalog, use the following steps to export metadata to FGDC XML file.

●Click the Export buttonin theDescriptiontab to open the Export Metadata dialog box.

●In the dialog box, select the following parameters:

✓Source Metadata: automatically set to the item's location.

✓Translator: automatically set to the ARCGIS2FGDC.xml translator

✓Output file: providename and path

3. Creating and Editing Metadata for Watershed Characterization Geodatabase

In this part of the assignment, you will use knowledge gained from Part I and your experience to create and edit metadata for feature classes and/or raster datasets or tables that you created in Assignment 4. You will follow the FGDC working metadata standard developed by the Washington State. If metadata already exists with the current data, you need to make sure that it meets the FGDC metadata requirements. If an item does not have metadata, you need to create the metadata as per the standard.

The full document of the WAGIC working metadata standard can be found here

This document explains the purpose and scope of the metadata standard, and provides a list of the minimum metadata elements needed. Read the document to understand this standard. Since the orders of the metadata elements in the document is not the same as those in the ArcGIS metadata editor and some names are slightly different, they are reordered and adjusted to match their counter parts in the editor. A table was created to provide a side-by-side comparison of the elements in the ArcGIS metadata editor and WAGIC’s working standard. This table (WAGIC_ArcGIS.xlsx) can be found in the Assignment 5 data folder. It will help you identify the metadata elements needed for the geodatabase. Note that the numbers after the element names from the WAGIC standard correspond to the Element No. in the working standard document.

The WAGIC working standard only provides a minimum requirement for metadata. You should enter more detailed information if it is available. Since some metadata elements may not apply to your data, or you simply are not able to obtain required information, it is natural that you may not even be able to provide some of the minimum requirements. In any case, the most important thing is to use your best knowledge to provide sets of metadata as complete as possible.