The project described in this report has two premises: First, a stolen object cannot be returned to its rightful owner unless it has been adequately documented; second, in case of theft, the information about the object needs to travel faster than the object itself. Both premises require agreement on what information constitutes an adequate record for identifying an object. And such an agreement must reflect broad collaboration that extends across national, agency, institutional, and organizational boundaries, and that finds equal acceptance in the public and private sectors.

This project has established such an agreement. Based on the previous work of many partners, a "core standard," called Object ID, has grown from a worldwide survey, interviews, roundtable discussions, and innumerable consultations. It is deceptively simple: ten categories of information, plus an image, can identify a cultural object. That simplicity represents a distillation of four years' discussion. It reflects current practice, ensuring that ongoing inventory projects need change very little in what they are doing. It identifies a consensus that existed already, unrecognized. And, while the premise of quick transmission of information implies the use of global electronic networks, the information collection can be carried out with little recourse to technology.

The Getty Information Institute wishes to thank its partners for their many contributions to this project, whether made in the course of these four years or through their previous work: the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Council of Europe, the International Council of Museums (ICOM), the United States Information Agency (USIA), and the Getty Conservation Institute. Many other organizations, agencies, and individuals offered invaluable help, as will be detailed throughout this report.

Having established this core documentation standard, the project will encourage its implementation in the many communities that are involved in combatting the illicit trade in cultural objects. Information technology offers us the opportunity as never before to erase the boundaries of time and place. That opportunity can be seized only through strategic partnerships and innovative collaborations. Working together, we can protect the world's cultural heritage in the new millennium.

The Getty Information Institute


Protecting Cultural Objects in the Global Information Society — Copyright 1997 The J. Paul Getty Trust