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Contents Foreword Introduction Standards Appendix Bibliography
Documenting the Cultural Heritage
  Importance of Documentation
Need for Documentation Standards
  Core Data Index
  Core Data Standard
  Object ID
The Need for Documentation Standards

Organisations responsible for the cultural heritage are part of a network of mutual dependencies, needing to share information and maintain contact with fellow professionals in their own and associated fields. Information sharing is not only a prerequisite for the better understanding and effective management of the cultural heritage, but is important for other interrelated reasons, including:
  • The promotion and interpretation of the heritage for vital economic purposes, such as cultural tourism and regional development,

  • The reinforcement of cultural and social identity at regional, national, and international levels,

  • The ability to combat the theft of and illicit traffic in cultural property on a global scale.
Although documentation of the cultural heritage is already carried out at local and national levels, the need to use information produced by documentation centres is becoming international in scale, responsive to global trends in economic activity, cultural awareness, and crime.

Now, with the possibilities that information technology offers for contact and information sharing, the benefits of creating cultural heritage information networks are clear: These include the enabling of common access to inventories created and managed by divers organisations. Common access can be achieved, however, only if documentation standards are developed to ensure compatibility between the databases that constitute the network. This compatibility is most readily achieved at the level of minimum or "core" information, i.e., those categories of essential, basic information common to a number of documentation projects. The adoption of such "core data" categories makes it easier to record, retrieve, and exchange information electronically. Although the concept of core data has been developed with computers in mind, it also has a wider application in representing a way of indexing, ordering, and classifying information, independently of whether that information is on paper, card index, or database. As a mechanism, it is not an end in itself, but is designed to provide a way in — a key — to further information held on a database or in an archive. Such further information will vary according to the needs and purposes of individual organisations.

The three initiatives presented in this publication have identified the core information regarded as necessary for documenting the architectural, archaeological, and movable heritage. The categories in all three have been drawn up, and approved by potential users, on the basis that they do not require organisations to collect information that they would not otherwise collect, or seek to make users conform to systems that are incompatible with their own needs. Rather, the core data categories provide agreed structures for the ordering of the information that is regarded as indispensable for proper cultural heritage management. Because they have been developed in similar ways, with comparable ends in view, the three standards presented here may either stand alone or, if organisational needs demand it, be linked together in order to make it possible to compile ensemble records of archaeology, buildings, and movable objects. In offering this possibility, they represent the achievement of a milestone in documentation, embracing both the movable and immovable cultural heritage.

The Core Data Index to Historic Buildings and Monuments of the Architectural Heritage (1992) was created to identify the categories of information necessary to record buildings of historic and architectural interest, and the International Core Data Standard for Archaeological Sites and Monuments (1995) to identify the categories necessary for documenting the immovable archaeological heritage. Object ID (1997) was developed to provide an international standard for the information needed to identify cultural objects, in response to the threat posed by the illicit trade in the movable heritage.

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