Apply metadata to records

You must attach metadata to records to ensure they are findable, usable, managed, preserved and kept for as long as necessary.

Metadata should be:

  • created and attached to a record when the record is captured
  • maintained and updated during the life of the record
  • secured and managed over time.

A recordkeeping metadata standard will help you identify what to include in metadata. Using a metadata standard is particularly valuable when you’re implementing new business and recordkeeping applications.

You should also consider metadata requirements when designing or selecting applications to create and store digital records.

Check with ICT or the business application owners to make sure your minimum recordkeeping metadata requirements are being met.

1. Why metadata is important

Recordkeeping metadata is essential to manage and preserve records, ensure they are findable and accessible, and maintain their authenticity.

It provides information about the record, including how a record has been:

  • used (e.g. viewing, accessing)
  • managed (e.g. transferring, reviewing, sentencing)
  • preserved (e.g. migration, conversion).

Recordkeeping metadata must be maintained and updated throughout the life of the record to demonstrate that the record remains authentic.

Different metadata issues arise at different stages during a record’s lifecycle.

2. What metadata to capture

Metadata should include:

  • a document or file number
  • a document or file title
  • date fields (these can provide evidence of when a record was created, captured and disposed of)
  • file format, especially for digital records or systems that can handle both paper and digital
  • author field (so you know who created the record)
  • relational fields (these can be used to link records)
  • security classifications
  • other management information and details of recordkeeping processes (such as how long the record should be kept, preservation activities, or when disposal can occur)
  • technical dependencies for digital records (e.g. software and media requirements, operating system).

Some metadata will be created automatically in applications, while you may need to add other information manually.


  • what metadata is required
  • what metadata must be explicitly documented
  • what can be derived or generated from the object, system or other sources (e.g. file format, file size)
  • what information can just be ‘known’ or understood from other information
  • if there are any schedules or controlled vocabularies that can be used to populate metadata (e.g. Queensland Government information security classification framework for the ‘security classification’ element)
  • how it will be captured and managed.

Look at options for sourcing metadata (e.g. automatically generated or captured) to help determine what metadata is needed.

Find resources and tools for sourcing additional metadata.

Note: If you are supplying a copy of a record to a third party, consider removing any metadata containing personal or confidential information (e.g. author). Metadata should not be removed from the original source record.

3. Applying metadata at specific levels

Metadata can be applied to different levels within your recordkeeping system (e.g. document, transaction, file or series).

Consider at what level metadata is applied based on the record, the relationship between it and the relevant level, and your recordkeeping system.

Note: Inheritance of metadata can occur between levels, depending on systems and applications.

Some metadata elements are more relevant to some levels than others.

Metadata can be applied to a higher level (e.g. information about a series) if it applies to all records. Metadata specific to individual records (e.g. title of the record) will need to be applied at the record level.

Find out about aggregation levels and at what level to apply metadata (PDF, 1.36 MB).

4. When to apply additional metadata

Some records will require additional metadata to enable access, ongoing management and preservation.

Assess this based on:

  • retention period–more metadata is required for significant and archival value records, and records with long-term temporary or permanent retention periods (some of this may need to be explicitly documented)
  • age–older records may have a smaller ‘window of opportunity’ before access is lost or their authenticity is put at risk
  • current accessibility–additional metadata may be required for records known to be at risk of becoming inaccessible (e.g. rare formats, complex records, records in legacy systems, records in off-line storage or on at risk storage media)
  • redundancy–in some situations, similar information is duplicated in different records and different ICT systems (records that are more unique are at higher risk and will need more metadata)
  • format/file type–unusual or complex formats will require additional metadata (e.g. format, version number, software or application used, length or duration, resolution) as the file type extensions may not provide sufficient information for future activities.

Note: Risks of losing accessibility can be reduced through regular use, regardless of age or retention period.

Metadata for specific file types

Certain formats will require additional metadata:


Include information about:

  • format and version
  • resolution
  • dimensions
  • colour
  • tonal resolution
  • colour space
  • colour management
  • colour lookup table
  • orientation
  • compression.


Include information about:

  • format and version
  • duration
  • resolution
  • audio bit rate
  • compression
  • encapsulation
  • track number and type.


Include information about:

  • format and version
  • frame dimensions
  • duration
  • frame rate
  • resolution
  • compression
  • encoding structure
  • video sound.


Include information about:

  • format and version
  • compression
  • text character set
  • text associated DTD
  • structural dimensions.


Include information about:

  • format and version
  • compression
  • datatype and representation category
  • representation form and layout
  • maximum size of data element values
  • minimum size of data element values.

Executable files

Include code type and version.

5. Recordkeeping activities and event history metadata

Ensure you capture event history metadata about any preservation or recordkeeping activities that result in a change to the record.

You need to:

  • capture information about migration and conversion (for digital records or records that have been digitised), including:
    • date of digitisation, migration or conversion
    • equipment used
    • action officer
  • ensure metadata is maintained during migrations
  • document what authorised changes have been made, including manipulation of images–this will help prove unauthorised changes have not been made
  • capture details of preservation activities and outcomes, including tests performed and losses or changes in functionality
  • document integrity or quality assurance checks
  • update metadata when or if records are destroyed
  • update and keep minimum metadata about any records transferred to QSA or another agency as part of a machinery-of-government (MOG) or administrative change.

Determine what metadata can be automatically captured and what needs to be manually added. You may be able to configure the type of metadata to be captured automatically.

If you are digitising, converting or migrating, consider capturing event history metadata at the time rather than after the project is finished.

Checks should be determined, documented, and implemented to assess the quality of metadata that are both manually entered and automatically generated.

6. Metadata for records that have been transferred

You need to update event history metadata for records transferred as part of a MOG or administration change. The record transfer or migration date must not overwrite the record creation date or last action date.

Minimum metadata about transferred records should include:

  • record identifier (e.g. file number)
  • title
  • record creation date and time
  • record closed date
  • transfer details–include name of receiving, transferring or creating  agency and transfer date
  • status of or details about the associated function (e.g. ceased or transferred).

There may be additional details you need to keep depending on the situation. Use the minimum disposal metadata as a guide.

If your system can’t store this information, you may need to record it elsewhere.

7. Metadata standards

Queensland recordkeeping metadata standard and guideline

The Queensland recordkeeping metadata standard and guideline (PDF, 1.36 MB) (QRKMS) details mandatory and optional recordkeeping metadata elements. It covers all records regardless of retention period or format.

It includes advice on applying metadata, additional metadata for records with longer retention periods and how to use metadata to support preservation.

Use the Queensland metadata standard implementation matrix (XLS, 83 KB) to help implement the QKRMS and identify your metadata requirements.

QGEA Metadata management principles

The Metadata management principles are a set of ambitions or values that accountable officers should aspire to when making decisions regarding the creation, management and use of metadata.

These principles provide for a consistent and contemporary approach to metadata for the Queensland Government and will assist agencies in the establishment and maintenance of metadata management practices.

These Metadata management principles are closely aligned with the ‘connectivity’ and ‘trust’ priorities of DIGITAL1ST, the Records governance policy, the Information access and use policy and the ICT profiling standard.

8. Metadata and business systems

Most systems won’t be able to capture all of the required metadata.

Find out what metadata is automatically captured by the system and then add additional required metadata manually.

Consider improving metadata functionality when procuring or configuring new systems, when migrating between systems or as part of reviewing recordkeeping.

Find out about recordkeeping and technology requirements.

9. Retention and disposal of metadata

Recordkeeping metadata is a record. These ‘control records’ should be kept according to the retention periods in the General Retention and Disposal Schedule.

Some recordkeeping metadata must be kept for longer than the life of the record it relates to.

10. Resources and tools

QSA resources

Queensland recordkeeping metadata standard and guideline (PDF, 1.36 MB) (QRKMS)

Details mandatory and optional recordkeeping metadata elements for the management of public records. It covers all records regardless of retention period or format.

Queensland metadata standard requirements matrix (XLS, 83 KB)

An example of how public authorities may choose to identify and implement their own metadata requirements, mapped against the standard requirements.

Other resources and tools

Find metadata tools and services to extract metadata.

Note: These tools will require some IT expertise to install, configure if required, and use.


Developed by JSTOR and the Harvard University Library, JHOVE performs format-specific identification, validation, and characterisation of digital objects. JHOVE2 was released in April 2011.


PRONOM is a file format registry which includes information about the structure of file formats, and the software and hardware environments required to support them, minimising the amount of format and environment metadata an individual organisation may need to source and manage itself.

It is developed and maintained by the National Archives of the UK.


Linked to PRONOM, Digital Record Object IDentification (DROID) is a desktop client for automatic file format identification, developed in conjunction with the PRONOM online registry of technical information by the National Archives of the UK.

Preservation Metadata Extraction Tool

The Metadata Extraction Tool was developed by the National Library of New Zealand to programmatically extract preservation metadata from a range of file formats. It is designed to automatically extract preservation-related metadata from digital files and output that metadata in XML formats for use in preservation activities.


National Archives of Australia’s digital preservation tool, Xml Electronic Normalising for Archives (XENA), includes file format identification.