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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
Core Data Index to Historic Buildings and Monuments of the Architectural Heritage

Article 17 of the 1985 Granada Convention requires parties to exchange information on "the possibilities afforded by new technologies for identifying and recording the architectural heritage." Taking its cue from the Convention, a roundtable was convened in London in 1989 to examine the tasks of architectural heritage information centres, the ways and means of improving co-operation between them, and the new technologies available to them in furthering their work. Among the recommendations of the meeting was the following:
The standards relating to a minimum set of data elements and the technical specifications required for their communication should be identified. This should be done by determining which data elements are necessary for the recording of all buildings of historic and architectural interest in each state or institution for the furtherance of its own work; by determining how this data may be harmonised; and by setting standards for computer systems.
A working group, with members drawn from heritage organisations in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the UK, was established under the aegis of the Council of Europe to identify essential data elements of a core record. In 1991 the group undertook a Survey of Architectural Inventories, one of the key aims of which was to establish consensus on the content of the proposed Core Data Index. Seventy-eight organisations in 26 countries, representing 137 inventories, responded to the questionnaire. The survey found that there was close agreement on the categories of information essential to any inventory of the architectural heritage.

In October 1992 the Council of Europe and Direction du Patrimoine (France) convened a colloquy in Nantes to discuss "Architectural Heritage: Inventory and Documentation Methods in Europe." The purpose of the meeting was to determine practical forms of co-operation between heritage documentation centres throughout Europe, and to prepare a definition of common standards based on a comparison of the inventory methods used in different countries. At the end of the colloquy, the participants — more than 150 from 24 countries — approved the Core Data Index prepared by the working group.

The analysis of the replies to the questionnaire survey, the discussions of the group of specialists, and the outcome of the Nantes Colloquy resulted in the drawing-up of a draft Recommendation. After approval by the Cultural Heritage Committee and the Council for Cultural Co-operation, the "Recommendation on the co-ordination of documentation methods and systems related to historic buildings and monuments of the architectural heritage" was adopted by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on 11 January 1995. The basic aim of the Core Data Index is to make it possible to classify individual buildings and sites by name, location, functional type, date, architect or patron, building materials and techniques, physical condition, and protection status. It is not an end in itself, but a starting point—a key to further information held in databases, documentation centres, and elsewhere that is necessary for the detailed understanding and care of individual monuments.

The Index is designed to enable the compiler to make cross references to the more detailed information about a building, including written descriptions and photographs; associated archaeological and environmental information; details of fixtures, fittings, and machinery installed within individual buildings; and the information on persons and organisations concerned with its history. It is recognised that the needs for these deeper levels of architectural, archaeological, environmental, historical, and planning information will vary from organisation to organisation and country to country, and that each must define its own specific requirements. Figure 1 shows the relationship of the parts of the Index concerning each historic building and monument, while Figure 2 illustrates how the core record for a building or monument may be related to more comprehensive levels of information.

figure 1
Figure 1. Schematic representation of a record structure for a building or monument

figure 2
Figure 2. Schematic representation of potential relationships between core monument records and related information

The Index has the potential not only to record individual buildings, but also to enable the compiler to relate the building to a larger site of which it may be a component or to the still larger ensemble of which it may form a part. The architectural ensemble manifests itself in many different forms. It may be typologically or geographically defined. It may be planned or organic, unified or grouped by association, or united by a common functional purpose or community of interest. It may be based on the hierarchical relationship between a larger structure and its components, such as apartments in a house or the machinery in a factory. It may be spatial, involving the considerations of the relationships between buildings, the spaces between them, and the landscape in which they sit. Different cases and organisational priorities will result in ensembles being defined in varying ways according to circumstance, imposing cut-off points in different places, in order to make the material manageable and to allow the making of connections that will permit a more rounded view of the heritage.

The Index does not seek to impose a rigid system, or to force organisations to act outside their own areas of interest. Nor does it seek to specify the computer hardware and software requirements of those organisations that are engaged in the process of computerising their information. Rather, it represents the first step towards defining and recommending technical standards for data capture and data exchange. It is possible to envisage a situation in which the mutual interrogation of indexed information will enhance our understanding of the architectural heritage of Europe. The Index is an important milestone on this road.

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