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API—Finding and Accessing Metadata Instances

There are several API methods that can find and return metadata instances. Note that in the API, metadata instances are called Template Instances (template_instance in the method names). The API refers to an actual CEDAR template as a Template, though some might call it a 'template instance'. We apologize for this semantic hiccup.

We cover a few of the most useful API methods for finding and obtaining CEDAR metadata instances in this page. These same patterns and methods will also apply to searching and obtaining metadata templates and elements.


CEDAR offers a number of search methods that can return metadata instances. Most of these return, for each discovered metadata instance, the description of the instance (in other words, that instance's metadata). To obtain the actual metadata (values) contained in one of those instances, you need to make a request for the specific instance using its instance identifier.

Search Methods

When performing searches via the API, just like searches in the UI, you will only find artifacts to which you (identified by your API key) have access. You must ensure the metadata artifacts you want searchable are visible to the people or groups you need to find and access them— either by explicitly giving those people or groups access to the artifacts, or by giving Everyone group access to the artifacts, or by putting the artifacts into a folder visible to those people, those groups, or the Everyone group.

CEDAR administrators can arrange for all the artifacts of a particular template to be visible to a particular group, contact us at to make that request.

This document describes one example in each section. To learn how to perform more detailed searches or searches for other entities, simply review the appropriate Swagger forms and enter parameters you are interested in. Swagger provides Curl and Request URL equivalents for any given search configuration.

Finding metadata instances in CEDAR

To get a list of the identifiers and metadata of all the metadata instances you have access to, you can use the Search GET method.

To perform this search In the Swagger documentation, simply specify the resource_types as 'instance', and click the Try it out! button toward the bottom. With the default settings, you should see the first 100 Instances that you have access to listed in the Response Body in JSON format.

To execute the same search in a curl request from a Unix or Linux command line, your command will look like this, substituting your API key as described in the overview:

curl -X GET --header 'Accept: application/json' --header 'Authorization: apiKey ' ''

Finding instances of a particular parent template

To find the set of metadata instances that have a particular metadata template as their parent, you will use the Search GET method.

The Search method has many parameters, but the key parameter for this command are is_based_on, which specifies the parent template's template identifier, and resource_types, which must be left blank. (It is required in every other search request except this one.)

When you put this command and your template identifier into a curl request that you can run from your Unix or Linux command line, and you add a pretty-printing command so that your instances descriptions are easily viewed, you obtain something like the following

curl -X GET --header 'Accept: application/json' --header 'Authorization: apiKey YOUR_API_KEY' '' | /usr/local/prettyprint

Retrieval Methods

To retrieve a metadata instance, you will use the Template Instance GET method. This method has two parameters: the template_instance_id (the instance_identifier mentioned earlier), and the desired format.

Getting the template using its instance identifier

The template_instance_id should look very similar to the following: The final 32 characters are the unique part of the string.

When this is put into a curl request that you can run from your Unix command line, and a pretty-printing command is added, you obtain something like the following:

curl -X GET --header 'Accept: application/json' --header 'Authorization: apiKey YOUR_API_KEY' '' | /usr/local/prettyprint` 

Requesting specific formats

Use the format parameter to request the format you want. CEDAR offers three formats: * json-ld: JSON-Linked Data, the default internal storage format * json: Plain JSON, similar content to json-ld but with most of the LD-specific identifiers removed (this specifically removes the semantic identifiers, which is a significant reduces the precision of the metadata) * rdf: Resource Description Framework, with the same content as the JSON-LD but expressed as RDF n-quads.

The RDF format should be importable by most triple stores and semantic repositories.

An example of the above call with an RDF-formatted instance returned:

curl -X GET --header 'Accept: application/json' --header 'Authorization: apiKey YOUR_API_KEY' '' | /usr/local/prettyprint`