Minnesota  State Archives

Center for Archival Resources On Legislatures (CAROL)

Foundations: Metadata Standards


The use of metadata will help you describe your files, which in turn increases access and long-term preservation options.

Metadata provides information that can be used to describe the records, the technical specification of the records, administrative actions taken on the records, and the relationship between other records. It is an important tool for records management. 


Types of Metadata

Different types of metadata capture specific types of information about a record and serve individual purposes.  The four main types of metadata are: Descriptive, Administrative, Structural, and Technical metadata.    The NDIIPP project focused on descriptive metadata as a way to better provide access to records of interest. Definitions and general information on types of metadata can be found on this Harvard University Library site, as well as within the Metadata Basics Tutorial Version 1.3 (2007) under Metadata types and functions.



To assist with consistency, schemas define specific metadata sets.  The NDIIPP project developed a schema to be used with legislative records and tested it with Minnesota and California bill files. 

Other common general use standard schemas include Dublin Core, EAD, METS, MODS, and PREMIS.

The Minnesota Recordkeeping Metadata Standard is an example of a state-specific schema.


It is sometimes useful or necessary to be able to compare metadata across different schemas or standards.  To make these comparisons, crosswalks are used to find similar elements between two or more schemas.

The Getty has created a crosswalk of common elements of multiple schemas that focuses on museum objects.

Links to other crosswalks can be found on the Schema-Crosswalk Wikipedia page.

There are also tools available that can perform metadata transformations. For example, the OCLC is experimenting with using a web service to transform metadata. Others tools are also available; search for them based on the schemas of interest.


Additional General Metadata Resources

The National Information Standards Organization (NISO) created a document in 2004 that provides metadata definitions and information on schemas, creating metadata, interoperability and exchange of metadata, crosswalks and links to further resources.

The University of Queensland in Australia produced a paper in 2003 that defines metadata, discusses its creation, describes its usefulness and purpose, and how it is used in web pages.


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February 15, 2012; links updated December 18, 2013.

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