Many documentation questions (who?, what?, where?, how?, and why?) can be answered using and re-using a small number of conceptual “documentation objects”. ESIP partners represent these objects in several different metadata models and XML representations. The shared conceptual foundation allows straight-forward translations of content between these models. These translations allow comparisons between metadata dialects and approaches and point the way towards extensions and revisions of International Standards required to meet the needs of ESIP partners.