Introduction to Object ID
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categories of information
Type Title
Materials Subject
Measurements Date
Inscriptions Maker
Distinguishing Description


What is the size and/or weight of the object? Specify which unit of measurement is being used (e.g., cm, in.) and to which dimension the measurement refers (e.g., height, width, depth).
An object's measurements greatly assist identification. All measurements need to be recorded as accurately as possible, since inaccurate information might prevent an object from being identified. If accurate measurements are not possible — for example, if the description is made after the theft and the measurements must be estimated from a photograph — the information should include qualification, e.g., approximately 175 cm, 50 cm (estimated).

When paintings, drawings, and prints are measured the dimensions given should be height followed by width (e.g., 66 x 45 cm). Unless otherwise specified, auction houses and dealers always record the "sight size" of the work — that is, the area visible within the frame rather than the overall size of the canvas, paper, or panel. Museums, on the other hand, often record the dimensions of the work unframed. Since frames are easily removed, the dimensions of the sight size of a work are not as valuable for purposes of identification as its dimensions unframed. Some institutions provide both sets of dimensions together with qualifying remarks, such as h.51; w.57.5. unframed h.55 cm; w.61.5 cm.

For sculpture, the height is invariably recorded, and usually the width and depth as well. For works that are longer than they are tall, such as reclining figures, the length should also be given. Whenever possible, measurements should be taken at the highest and widest points, with qualification added (e.g., 250 cm to apex of finial). For objects of irregular shape, where the highest or widest points are not clear, take measurements that can be understood by another person examining the object, e.g., height 365 cm to point of spear, 358 cm to top of head, 98 cm across plinth.

The dimensions of furniture should include the height, width, and depth, in that order. Some measurements will require qualification, e.g., width 250 cm with wings extended. Appraisers, auctioneers, and dealers often provide only two or even one of the key measurements for certain types of object — for example chairs, where common practice provides only the height of the back, or the height and width.

Circular objects such as plates and bowls should be recorded in diameter, whereas for tall and irregularly shaped objects, such as vases and ewers, the height should be given. For carpets, rugs, and tapestries, the length and width should be given, or the diameter if the object is circular. Most clocks are measured in the same way as furniture, although they may also be measured across the dial, e.g., Ht. 10' (305 cm) Wd. 1' 10" (56 cm). Dial 1' 6" (46cm) by 2' 6" (76 cm).

The dimensions and/or weight of contemporary art installations may vary considerably. In these cases, a range of measurements or average or "ideal" measurements, should be provided

Size variable, ranges from 14' 5" (440 cm) to 15' 9" (480 cm).

Silver-cellophane-wrapped candies, endlessly replenished supply, ideal weight 1,000 lb. Wt. varies with each installation. Dimensions variable.

The weight of objects made of precious metals such as gold and silver is customarily recorded. Several units of measurements may be, including grams (gm.), and avoirdupois (oz.), and Troy (oz. dwt).

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