Understanding Metadata

When you add or edit content within Exchange, you are given an opportunity to add or edit the metadata…but what is metadata? Why is it so important?

Metadata is what provides information on the identification, extent, quality, ownership, temporal and spatial aspects, content, provenance, maintenance, and other properties of digital geographic data and services.

Simply put, it is a file that represents the who, what, where, when, why and how of a geospatial record. Without it, you have no way of knowing the origin or validity of your data. It describes the dataset in a way similar to how a book cover describes a book.

View existing metadata

Metadata is available for all layers, maps and documents that have been added to Exchange, and can easily be viewed or downloaded.

To view existing metadata, click the View Details link for the map, layer or document. This will open the details page. Click the Metadata Detail button.


The Metadata Details page will open, and display all of the information that has been added to the layer, map or document.

The metadata page begins with the Identification section, which provides basic details such as the title, abstract, and any associated keywords.


The Owner section provides any contact information related to the person who uploaded the data. If you have questions regarding the content, you can find whom to contact here.


The Information of Layer / Information (for documents) section displays an associated image of the data, projection system and bounding box information. For Layers and maps, you’ll see a thumbnail of the data.


Features includes language and any other descriptive information about the dataset. This section’s content will vary depending on what information has been provided.


Contact Points will reflect anyone you can contact for additional information.


The References section lists all of the available locations and downloads for the dataset. Click on any of the links to access or download the content in that format.


The Metadata Author details the individual who initially added the metadata.


Populating metadata

When you import content into Exchange, there is a certain amount of metadata that is added to the dataset by default. The type of data, content owner, spatial identification, and references will be created automatically, and the remainder is done later (please see section on Working with Metadata for more details). It is up to all users to ensure the metadata is as robust and accurate as possible.