Summary, page 2 of 3
The first step toward establishing consensus on this core information was to identify and compare the information requirements of each of these communities, to gain an understanding of the purposes for which their information is collected, and to determine how it is used and with whom it is shared. These requirements were identified by a combination of background research, interviews, and, most importantly, major international questionnaire surveys. The first of these surveys, carried out between July and December 1994 by the Getty Information Institute, was endorsed by the Council of Europe, the International Council of Museums, and UNESCO. The survey elicited responses from organizations in 43 countries, including many major museums and galleries, heritage documentation centers, Interpol, and a number of national law-enforcement agencies. The survey also took account of existing standards and standards-making initiatives in the museum world, including those of the International Council of Museums, the Museum Documentation Association (U.K.), the Canadian Heritage Information Network, and the Getty Information Institute.
The results of this preliminary surveypublished in July 1995 in Protecting Cultural Objects Through International Documentation Standards: A Preliminary Surveydemonstrated that there did, indeed, exist a broad consensus on many of the categories of information that are candidates for inclusion in the proposed standard. Encouraged by these findings, the project went on to survey the information needs of the other key communities, namely the art trade; appraisers of personal property; art insurance specialists; and customs agencies. Over 1,000 responses were received from organizations in 84 countries and dependencies, making this survey the largest of its kind ever carried out.
The findings of the questionnaire surveys were used to inform a series of roundtable meetings of experts drawn from the communities concerned. The first of these was a meeting of conservation specialists, held in Washington, D.C., in August 1994. This was the first meeting of an international Conservation Specialists Working Group organized jointly by the Getty Information Institute and the Getty Conservation Institute. It was followed by a meeting of museum documentation experts, held in Edinburgh in November 1995. The third meeting was with art-insurance specialists, and was held at Lloyd's of London in March 1996. The fourth meetingheld at the Winterthur Museum in Delawarebrought together organizations representing dealers and appraisers of art, antiques, and antiquities. The final meeting, held in Prague in November 1996, was for representatives of law-enforcement agencies and commercial organizations that operate computerized art theft databases. It was organized in partnership with UNESCO and the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic.
The surveys and consultations established that there is strong agreement on the categories of information that should constitute the standard. The resulting standardor Object ID, as it will be knownhas been developed in response to an identified need, and is simple to understand and easy to implement. Moreover, it represents a true consensus because it reflects current opinion and practice in the commu-nities responsible for protecting cultural objects.
Implementing the Standard
Object ID is best defined in terms of the ways in which it can be implemented.
- It provides a checklist of the information that is required to identify stolen or missing objects.
- It is a documentation standard that establishes the minimum level of information needed to identify an object.
- It is a key building block in the development of information networks that will allow diverse organizations to exchange descriptions of objects rapidly.
- It provides a key component in any training program that teaches the documentation of objects.
Table 1. Countries Responding to International Questionnaire Surveys
Union of Myanmar
United States of America
Combatting the illicit trade in cultural objects requires international collaboration among a variety of types of organizations in both the public and private sectors. This project's contribution has been to identify a minimum standard for describing cultural objects, to encourage the making of descriptions of objects in both private and public ownership, and to bring together organizations that can encourage the implementation of the standard, as well as those that will play a part in developing networks along which this information can circulate.
Table 2. Acceptance of Object ID Categories by Key Communities Percentage of Respondents Agreeing that a Category is Essential Category of
Art Trade Appraisers Insurance Customs
Photograph 83 96 93 89 94 91 Type of Object 96 96 95 91 100 100 Measurements 97 89 98 97 100 96 Materials &
98 81 97 97 100 96 Inscriptions &
89 96 97 97 96 89 Date or Period 93 85 96 96 92 89 Maker 83 87 95 96 100 91 Subject 84 94 85 94 90 93 Title 95 94 90 97 100 89 Distinguishing
97+ * 88 96 * 98 Description 81 94 79 94 98 93
* Question not asked in these surveys. The recommendation to include this category was made after these surveys were carried out.
+ Question not asked in 1994 survey, but asked in supplementary survey carried out in 1996.
PREVIOUS | CONTENTS | NEXT
Protecting Cultural Objects in the Global Information Society Copyright © 1997 The J. Paul Getty Trust