An overview of Metadata Services

An overview of Metadata Services

A Metadata Service provides a forum for sharing metadata. If you’re looking for data, you might search or browse a Metadata Service to find what you need. Similarly, if you have data that you want to share with others, you can do so by publishing it to a Metadata Service where others can see it.

Finding data

Suppose you’re creating a map for a presentation and you need some basemap data to display behind the data you’ve collected about your study area. Many organizations collect geographic information and build datasets. Some organizations freely distribute their data while others may charge a small fee. The question is, how do you find that data?

The first place you might look is ESRI’s Geography NetworkSM. The Geography Network is a global network of geographic information users and providers. Through the Geography Network, you can access many types of geographic content, including live maps, downloadable data, and more advanced services. One component of the Geography Network, the Geography Network Explorer, is a Metadata Service. With the Geography Network Explorer, you can search for data by geographic location; theme, such as environmental, business, or health data; scale; date collected; and so on.

Geography Network Explorer

Think of a Metadata Service as a geographic search engine that you use when you want to find data and other GIS resources. A Metadata Service works over the Internet or intranet, allowing anyone who has access to the Web to use it. The Geography Network is just one place you can go to look for data. Just as you can use different Internet search engines such as Yahoo!®, you can also search different Metadata Services hosted by other organizations. If you know the Web address of those Metadata Services, you can easily search their contents for geographic data.

When you search for data on a Metadata Service, your search will yield a list of resources that match your search criteria. You can view the complete metadata for each one to see if it’s what you’re looking for and can sometimes view an interactive map. Once you find a suitable dataset, you can download it or, in some instances, use it right from the Web.

If you have ArcGIS Desktop, you can perform advanced searches on a Metadata Service using ArcCatalog. Connect to the ArcIMS Server, then right-click Learn about searching using ArcCatalog

Searching in ArcCatalog

Sharing data

If your organization is like most, you’ve invested a great deal of time and money collecting the data from which you’ve built your geographic database. Often, the people who build databases aren’t the same people who need to use them. So, how do you share your data with others who need it? Depending on who needs access to your data, there are several approaches.

Share your data on the Geography Network—The Geography Network is a good place to start. If the data you collect is not restricted to internal use and can be shared—either freely or for a fee—you can publish it to the Geography Network. Simply browse to and follow the link that allows you to become a publisher on the Geography Network. Once you’ve published your metadata, anyone who searches the Geography Network will find your data if it meets their search criteria.

Share your data on another organization’s Metadata Service—Any organization that has ESRI® ArcIMS can host a Metadata Service. If you have access to another organization’s Metadata Service, you can publish your metadata to it. Anyone who can use that service will then be able to see the data you’ve shared. Like sharing your data on the Geography Network, this option requires that you have access to the Internet and have been granted permission to publish to the Metadata Service.

Share your data on your own Metadata Service—By building your own Metadata Service, you have full control over it. You can control who can search and browse its contents as well as who can publish metadata to it. For example, you might create a Metadata Service to facilitate data sharing between departments within your organization. You could configure your system so that only people within your organization could access it. Later, if you choose to give people outside your organization access to your service, you can easily do so.

Using Metadata Explorer

Metadata Explorer is an application available as part of the Web ADF for the Java Platform. If you want to use Metadata Explorer, first install the Web ADF for the Java Platform. Next, you must deploy Metadata Explorer. Deployment instructions can be found in Web Manager once you have installed the Web ADF.

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