Drawings, images, surveys, and historic research of a structure or archaeological site are essential for good conservation planning and are known in the field as methods of documentation. The premise behind the RecorDIM project—organized by the Getty Conservation Institute, and carried out between 2003 and 2007—was to improve conservation practice by improving the ability of professionals to gather, create, manage, and interpret documentation. Important conservation decisions could then be made with better and more accessible information.

The project had three goals: 1) develop a strong network between educators, institutions, conservators, and documentation professionals; 2) produce books, articles, and Web-based resources on documentation; and 3) improve education at both the mid-career professional level and in university programs. These goals were decided upon by an expert group meeting held at the Getty Center in fall 2003.

One initial aspect of the RecorDIM project was the development of a network of experienced and dedicated individuals involved in conservation and documentation that could advise and guide the project. This network held several meetings to discuss the project, possible publications, and educational opportunities. Collaborations were formed to work on publications, the bibliography, and educational materials.

Five publications, ten articles, and a bibliography, searchable within AATA Online resulted from the RecorDIM project. The two-volume Recording, Documentation, and Information Management for the Conservation of Heritage Places, with an international focus, was published by the GCI. Volume One, Guiding Principles, is directed toward heritage managers and covers the reasons why documentation is necessary and important. It outlines strategies for integrating research and investigation into conservation activities, and discusses the basic documentation principles, benefits, and approaches. Volume Two, Illustrated Examples, is a series of eighteen short case studies on successful projects around the world where documentation was crucial to the conservation of various sites. Distribution of these publications by the GCI is online, with hardcopies delivered to conservation institutions, libraries, educational programs, and government organizations. The third publication, A Guide to the Use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) at Cultural Heritage Sites, was a report developed by the Politecnico di Torino, Italy, and is directed toward expert users of GIS software. A fourth report, Guide to Creating Inventories of Cultural Heritage Places for India, was printed on a limited basis and made available in India. The fifth and final publication, a handbook on using metric survey tools and techniques, was created by English Heritage. The final three works are available upon request from their respective creators and the articles produced as a result of the project are included in the online bibliography.

Conservation education concerning documentation was accomplished with series of four courses in partnership with ICCROM—the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property—which were held between 2003 and 2009. These courses—named ARIS: Architectural Records, Inventories and Information Systems for Conservation—trained 59 mid-career professionals from over 46 countries and involved over 29 instructors from over 18 countries. It was originally sponsored solely by ICCROM and then co-sponsored with the GCI. Support in the form staff time was also given to existing educational institutions under this project from 2004 to 2010, including the Raymond Lemaire International Center for Conservation at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven; University of Pennsylvania School of Design, Department of Historic Preservation; Politecnico di Torino DICAS; the UCLA/Getty Master's Program on the Conservation of Ethnographic and Archaeological Materials; and the UNESCO World Heritage Center. Many of the instructors and lecturers in these educational programs were part of the original network created by the RecorDIM project.

In conclusion, the RecorDIM project succeeded in creating a network of professionals that allowed for cooperation during the creation of the publications and that enabled numerous teaching opportunities. This network continues and many of its members still actively collaborate on other projects. The RecorDIM initiative has been taken up by the International Scientific Committee for Documentation of Cultural Heritage (CIPA). This will ensure that the network will remain active and strong. All of the material created during the project continues to be used for teaching at over twenty university level conservation courses and short programs. The two volumes created by the GCI are expected to be released as a second edition, with five additional case studies. Evaluation of this project commenced in 2010 and will continue through 2011 to fully quantify and qualify the effectiveness of the initiative.

Page updated: July 2010