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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
From the outset, the project recognised the need to work collaboratively with organisations in six key communities:
  • Cultural heritage organisations (including museums, national inventories, and archaeological organisations)
  • Law-enforcement agencies
  • Customs agencies
  • The art trade
  • Appraisers
  • The insurance industry
The information needs of these organisations vary, but all need documentation that makes it possible to identify individual objects. Building a broad consensus across these communities on the categories of information essential for identifying objects was the essential precondition to a successful outcome for this initiative.

The first step toward establishing consensus on this core information was to identify and compare the information requirements of each of these communities, to understand 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 was carried out between July and December 1994 by the Getty Information Institute, with the endorsement of the Council of Europe, ICOM, and UNESCO. The survey elicited responses from organisations in 43 countries, including many major museums and galleries, heritage documentation centres, 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 (UK), and the Canadian Heritage Information Network.

The results of this preliminary survey — published in July 1995 as 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 dealers in art, antiques, and antiquities; appraisers of personal property; art insurance specialists; and customs agencies. Over 1,000 responses were received from organisations 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. These began with 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 organised jointly by the Getty Information Institute and the Getty Conservation Institute. A key recommendation of this meeting was that the standard should include a category called Distinguishing Features, the purpose of which would be to record information about an object’s physical characteristics that could help to identify it (e.g., damage, repairs, or manufacturing defects). The Washington roundtable was followed by a meeting of museum documentation experts, held in Edinburgh in November 1995. The standard recommended by the participants at this roundtable of experts has been little changed by the findings of subsequent surveys and the recommendations of later meetings. This gathering was an important milestone for the project in that it demonstrated the possibility of establishing a consensus among professionals within a key community. 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 organisations 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 organisations that operate computerised art theft databases. It was organised in partnership with UNESCO and the Czech Ministry of Culture.

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