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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
Introduction
The findings of the surveys and recommendations of the roundtable meetings established that there was strong agreement on the categories of information that should constitute the standard (see Protecting Cultural Objects in the Global Information Society: The Making of Object ID, Getty Information Institute, 1997). The result is Object ID, a standard that is best defined in terms of the ways in which it can be implemented:
  • It provides a checklist of the information required to identify stolen or missing objects,

  • It is a documentation standard that establishes the minimum level of information needed to describe an object for purposes of identification,

  • It is a key building block in the development of information networks that will allow divers organisations to exchange descriptions of objects rapidly,

  • It provides a solid basis for training programmes that teach the documentation of objects.
The standard has been developed in response to an identified need, and is designed to be usable by non-specialists and to be capable of being implemented in traditional, non-computerised ways of making inventories and catalogues as well as in sophisticated computerised databases. Because Object ID is designed to be used by a number of communities, and by specialists and non-specialists alike, it identifies broad concepts rather than specific fields and uses simple, non-technical language. Similarly, its function as a checklist usable by the public led to the decision to present the definitions of the information categories in the form of questions — such as "What materials is the object made of?" — an approach that was found to be more comprehensible to non-specialists than definitions in the form of statements.

It is important to point out that Object ID is not an alternative to existing standards; rather it is a core standard created for a very specific purpose — that of describing cultural objects to enable them to be identified. As such it can be incorporated into existing systems and nested within existing standards. For example, in August 1997 the Executive Council of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) adopted a resolution that "A museum should be able to generate from its collection information system such data (preferably according to the 'Object ID' standard) that can identify an object in case of theft or looting." Similarly, it has been nested within the Spectrum standard for museum information developed by the Museum Documentation Association (UK). It has also been incorporated into a number of law-enforcement databases, including the National Stolen Art File of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (USA).

Combatting the illicit trade in cultural objects requires international collaboration among a variety of types of organisations in both the public and private sectors. The contribution of the Object ID project has been to identify a minimum standard for describing cultural objects, to encourage the making of descriptions of objects in both private and public ownership, and to bring together organisations that can encourage the implementation of the standard, as well as those that will play a part in developing networks along which this information can circulate.


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