FGDC Metadata

The purpose of this web page is to provide support for creating metadata for your spatial datasets, and to outline the importance of following FGDC metadata guidelines. Metadata, or "data about data" is a very important part of spatial data organization, especially when large amounts of information are being shared. When properly created and maintained, metadata allows any prospective or current user of a particular spatial dataset to quickly find pertinent information about the origin, purpose and structure of the dataset in question.

This web resource is broken into two major parts. First, we provide documents and other materials we feel are useful or important for effective metadata creation. These documents and files are served from WVGISTC's FTP site and are freely available for download. The second section contains links to other web pages that deal with the creation of FGDC metadata, including relevant software applications, as well as guidelines and specifications.

Look for updates to these resources in 2009 and beyond.


This section includes informational documents, presentations and sample data commonly used by WVGISTC staff when creating or training others to create FGDC compliant metadata. Some of these documents are in .pdf format and you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view them. Download it here.

  • WVGISTC Metadata Resources Folder Guide (December 2005) Use this text file as a guide to the many documents and materials stored in the WVGISTC Metadata Resources Folder. All the materials in this section are key documents taken from this resource.

  • WVGISTC Metadata Training Presentation (June 2005) This is a .pdf format of a metadata training presentation compiled by Eric Hopkins of the West Virginia GIS Technical Center. It provides brief descriptions of metadata resources as well as a review of WVGISTC's metadata creation methodology.

  • Sample Metadata - West Virginia Tax Districts (October 2003) This is complete, FGDC compliant metadata for the West Virginia Tax Districts polygon file that WVGISTC serves. Use it, paired with the data (available here) to which it refers, as a guide for the creation of your own metadata.

  • Graphic Representation of FGDC Metadata (June 1998) This is an online publication of the FGDC that describes, with text and graphics, the hierarchical requirements of FGDC compliant metadata. This link leads to a printable document containing the above graphical representation in addition to a wealth of other information.

  • FGDC Metadata Don't Duck Metadata - Metadata Quick Guide (March 2005) This FGDC publication provides a "quick and dirty" guide to the creation of metadata. It contains several key sections, including a detailed explanation of keywords and the ISO 19115 Thesaurus.


This section is a list of links to websites where further information is available. We have also provided links to free software that WVGISTC routinely employs to create FGDC metadata. While GIS packages such as ArcMap do provide a metadata interface, it has been our experience that the software listed below is much more intuitive and effective for creating metadata with minimal parse errors.

  • Federal Geographic Data Committee The Federal Geographic Data Committee is a 19 member interagency committee composed of representatives from the Executive Office of the President, Cabinet-level and independent agencies. The FGDC is developing the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) in cooperation with organizations from State, local and tribal governments, the academic community, and the private sector. The NSDI encompasses policies, standards, and procedures for organizations to cooperatively produce and share geographic data.

  • Content Standard for Digital Geospatial Metadata (CSDGM) Workbook The objectives of the standard are to provide a common set of terminology and definitions for the documentation of digital geospatial data. The standard establishes the names of data elements and compound elements (groups of data elements) to be used for these purposes, the definitions of these compound elements and data elements, and information about the values that are to be provided for the data elements.

  • USGS Metadata FAQ Frequently-asked questions on FGDC metadata, compiled by the USGS.

  • Chew 'n' Spit (cns, A pre-parser for formal metadata) CNS is a pre-parser for formal metadata designed to assist metadata managers convert records that cannot be parsed by mp into records that can be parsed by mp. It takes as input a poorly-formatted metadata file and, optionally, a list of element aliases, and outputs (1) a metadata file that can be read by both mp and xtme and (2) a file listing all of the lines that it couldn't figure out where to put.

  • Metadata Parser (mp, A metadata compiler) This program is a compiler to parse formal metadata, checking the syntax against the FGDC Content Standard for Digital Geospatial Metadata and generating output suitable for viewing with a web browser or text editor. This is a link to a version of MP modified by Intergraph to include a Windows GUI. MP remains, along with ESRI ArcCatalog built-in metadata tools, a crucial part of the metadata creation and validation process at the WVGISTC while new tools incorporating the new ISO standards are developed.

  • NSGIC Metadata Implementation Primer This is a page published by the National States Geographic Information Council. It contains a primer that is designed to provide a practical overview of the issues associated with developing and maintaining metadata for digital spatial data. It is targeted toward an audience of state, local, and tribal government personnel. The document provides a "cook book" approach to the creation of metadata.