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I would like to know which ArcPy functions can be used to read metadata from existing datasets in ArcCatalog?

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The ArcPy functions for working with metadata are found in the Metadata toolset:

All ArcGIS items have a description, which is also referred to as metadata. The Metadata toolset lets you handle metadata for ArcGIS items and stand-alone metadata XML files.

Each tool in the Metadata toolset has a Code Sample to illustrate how it can be used in ArcPy.

I am not a metadata expert but I think the tool you need first is Validate Metadata which:

Exports metadata to a standard metadata format then validates the exported file.

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