Introduction to Object ID
  Project Team
  Part 1
  Part 2

The Object ID project began with two premises: First, a stolen object cannot be returned to its rightful owner unless it has been adequately documented. Secondly, in the case of theft, the information about the object should be able to travel rapidly across the world and be circulated among a number of organisations. Both premises require agreement on what information constitutes an adequate record for identifying an object. Such an agreement must be based on a broad consensus among those organizations with a role to play in the protection of the movable cultural heritage at international, national, and local level, and in both the public and private sectors.

The project established that such a consensus does exist, and succeeded in gaining agreement on a documentation standard that reflects this consensus. The contents of Object ID were identified by research, interviews, consultative roundtable meetings, and international questionnaire surveys. The result is a documentation standard that is deceptively simple: ten categories of information, plus an image that can identify an object. However, that simplicity represents the distillation of four years’ discussion with police and customs agencies, cultural heritage organizations, the art trade, and insurance industry. It reflects current practice among the organizations in these communities, and meets the essential requirement of being easy to implement and use by specialists and non-specialists alike.

The success of the project is due in large measure to the willingness of a large number of organizations (over 1,000 world wide) to participate in the consultation process. The J. Paul Getty Trust would like to thank all those who assisted in the development of Object ID, and, in particular, its partners in the project: the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Council of Europe, the International Council of Museums (ICOM), and the United States Information Agency.

Object ID is making its contribution to combating art theft by establishing a minimum standard for describing art, antiques and antiquities, by encouraging the making of descriptions of objects in both private and public ownership, and by bringing together organizations that can encourage its implementation, as well as those that will play a part in developing networks along which this information can circulate. Object ID is a small piece of paper, but it represents something very big — the establishment of common ground between organizations around the world, common ground that can help lay the foundations for effective collaboration to protect our cultural heritage.

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