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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
Object ID

The illicit trade in cultural objects is now widely recognised as one of the most prevalent categories of international crime. There is widespread agreement that documentation is crucial to the protection of cultural objects, since stolen objects that have not been photographed and adequately described are rarely recoverable by their rightful owners. However, it is one thing to encourage the compilation of descriptions of objects as a security measure, but quite another to develop effective means of circulating this documentation to organisations that can assist in their recovery if stolen. Ideally, the information that can identify a stolen or illegally exported object should be able to travel at least as fast as the object itself. This will mean that the information may have to cross national borders and be circulated among a number of organisations. The development of electronic networks makes this effort technically possible. But the existence of digital information and computer networks to transmit information solves only part of the problem; also needed are standards that will make it possible to exchange information in a form that is intelligible to both systems and people.

Discussions between the Getty Information Institute and leading national and international umbrella agencies and government bodies in 1993 established that there was a consensus on the need to collectively address issues relating to documentation practices and the implementation of international standards. In July of that year the Institute convened a meeting in Paris to discuss the possibility of developing an international collaborative project to define documentation standards for identifying cultural objects. The meeting was attended by representatives of the Conference for Security and Co-operation in Europe (now the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe), the Council of Europe, the International Council of Museums, INTERPOL, UNESCO, and the U.S. Information Agency. The participants agreed on the need for such an initiative and recommended that it focus on developing a standard for the information required to identify cultural objects, and on the mechanisms for encouraging the implementation of the standard. As a result of these consultations, a project was defined and initiated, with the following primary objectives:
  • To provide a collaborative forum for organisations that have demonstrated an interest in the protection of cultural objects,

  • To recommend an international "core" documentation standard for the identification of cultural objects,

  • To encourage the implementation of the standard.

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