Guidelines for Making Records that Describe Art, Antiques, and Antiquities

Introduction to Object ID: Guidelines for Making Records that Describe Art, Antiques, and Antiquities

Robin Thornes, with contributions by Peter Dorrell and Henry Lie


72 pages

PDF file size: 36.1 MB


The illicit trade in art and other cultural objects now constitutes one of the most prevalent categories of international crime. Law-enforcement agencies have long recognized that documentation is critical to the protection and recovery of these objects. Standards were needed that would make it possible for information on stolen objects to move easily across electronic networks and, at the same time, that would be intelligible to law enforcement and art communities alike. Developed through the collaboration of museums, police and customs agencies, the art trade, the insurance industry, and appraisers of art and antiques, Object ID is an international standard that defines the minimal information needed to identify art, antiques, and antiquities.

Introduction to Object ID summarizes the evolution of Object ID, explains its nine categories, and offers guidelines for using them. The book provides suggestions for writing descriptions of objects and includes a brief discussion of five additional categories that some institutions opt to employ. The second part of the book sets out guidelines for choosing viewpoints, selecting backgrounds, and positioning lighting when documenting cultural objects with photography.

The Introduction To series acquaints professionals and students with the complex issues and technologies in the production, management, and dissemination of cultural heritage information resources.

Table of Contents

  • Foreword
  • The Project Team
    • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
    • What is Object ID?
    • Why Object ID is Needed
    • The Making of Object ID
  • Part I. Describing Art and Antiques Using Object ID
    • Overview
    • Categories of Information
      • Type of Object
      • Materials & Techniques
      • Measurements
      • Inscriptions & Markings
      • Distinguishing Features (by Henry Lie)
      • Title
      • Subject
      • Date or Period
      • Maker
      • Description
    • Additional Recommended Categories
      • Inventory Number
      • Related Written Material
      • Place of Origin/Discovery
      • Cross Reference to Related Objects
      • Date Documented
    • Part II. Photographing Objects for Purposes of Identification (by Peter Dorrell)
      • Overview
      • Choosing Viewpoints
      • Creating Backgrounds
      • Positioning Lighting
      • Checklist for Photographing Objects
      • Bibliography

About the Authors

Robin Thornes is an architectural historian and a specialist in the field of documentation standards. He is the author of Protecting Cultural Objects in the Global Information Society: The Making of Object ID.