Object ID: A Model of Global Collaboration
Journal of Museum Management and Curatorship, Vol. 20, No. 21, 2005
20 Pages Posted: 21 Aug 2010
Date Written: 2005
Although the illicit trade in cultural property is widely recognized as an international problem, there are very few success stories for developing effective and universally applicable protection and prevention policies. Most nations recognize the importance of proper documentation for cultural objects. Without photographs and adequate descriptions, a stolen or looted object may never be returned to its rightful owner due to its lack of identification. Additionally, the information collected for each object varies; thus, not only is there a need to have certain information attach to a cultural object, but there is a need for the development of a standardized set of informational requirements so that an object may be identified wherever it turns up. Object ID was initiated in 1993 by the J. Paul Getty Trust to address this issue. Developed through a collaboration of efforts by museums, law enforcement and customs agencies, members of the art trade, art collectors, and insurance organizations, Object ID responded to the need for more uniform documentation procedures. This article traces the development of Object ID from an idea to reality and the context in which this standard arose. Discussing briefly other international efforts to protect cultural property and the work of the J. Paul Getty Trust, this article details who is using Object ID and how. It will also note the problems that lie in Object ID’s worldwide implementation. This article concludes that despite its technical obstacles, through the collaboration involved in its creation and the effectiveness of its direct approach, Object ID can provide useful guidance for future efforts.
Keywords: Object ID, museum, archaeology, illicit trade, cultural property, law enforcement, cultural heritage, customs, art trade, export, standard documentation, ICOM
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