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 survey—published in July 1995 in Protecting Cultural Objects Through International Documentation Standards: A Preliminary Survey—demonstrated 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 meeting—held at the Winterthur Museum in Delaware—brought 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 standard—or Object ID, as it will be known—has 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.

Table 1. Countries Responding to International Questionnaire Surveys
Algeria
Argentina
Australia
Austria
Bangladesh
Barbados
Belgium
Belize
Bermuda
Botswana
Brunei
Canada
Chile
Colombia
Congo
Croatia
Cuba
Cyprus
Czech Republic
Denmark
Ecuador
Egypt
El Salvador
Estonia
Finland
France
Gabon
Germany
Ghana
Greece
Guyana
Hong Kong
Hungary
Iceland
India
Indonesia
Ireland
Israel
Italy
Jamaica
Japan
Jordan
Kenya
Kuwait
Latvia
Lithuania
Macau
Madagascar
Malaysia
Malawi
Mauritius
Mexico
Mongolia
Namibia
The Netherlands
New Zealand
Nicaragua
Nigeria
Norway
Pakistan
Peru
Philippines
Poland
Portugal
Romania
Russia
Slovakia
Slovenia
South Africa
Spain
Sudan
Swaziland
Sweden
Switzerland
Syria
Thailand
Ukraine
Union of Myanmar
United Kingdom
United States of America
Venezuela
Vietnam
Zambia
Zimbabwe

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
Information
Cultural
Heritage
Organizations
Law
Enforcement
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 &
Techniques
98 81 97 97 100 96
Inscriptions &
Markings
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
Features
97+ * 88 96 * 98
Description 81 94 79 94 98 93
 
Key:
*  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.


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