Protecting Cultural Objects

FOREWORD

The threat to the world's cultural heritage is an international problem that requires international solutions arrived at by collaborative efforts. This report is the first step of a project to protect cultural objects by means of an international agreement on the minimum, or core, information necessary to identify them.

Establishing an evironment in which information about stolen or illicitly exported objects can be rapidly exchanged has been envisioned in many quarters over the last decade. Broad cooperation could lend some basic but effective measures that could radically improve our capacity to create such an environment.

First, there must be agreement on what information is essential to identify cultural objects. Documentation standards -- mutually accepted guidelines that promote the consistent recording of information -- are fundamental to the efficient exchange of information. By surveying and analyzing current practice, this report has found that organizations with different interests in relation to cultural objects have common information needs. The next stage of this project will bring together the many participating communities -- documentation specialists, law-enforcement agencies, the insurance industry, and many others -- to shape this de facto consensus into an internationally agreed-upon documentation standard.

To this end, the Council of Europe, the Getty Art History Information Program (AHIP), the International Council of Museums (ICOM), UNESCO, and the U.S. Information Agency (USIA) have initiated a project called International Core Documentation Standards for the Protection of Cultural Objects. By providing a forum for international organizations, policymakers, and key constituents concerned with the protection of cultural objects and prevention of illicit movement, the project plans to build consensus for defining a core documentation standard to identify objects and to encourage the mechanisms for implementation. Only through a joint effort such as this one can we hope to reach an international agreement that is essential for protecting the cultural heritage of the world's nations.

ELEANOR FINK, Director
The Getty Information Institute