Documentation Standards (Museums and Cultural Heritage)

Definable as model, tool or standard, consideration of the CRM usefully provides a conceptual and practical link with the broad and important field of standards development. The MCH sector has invested enormous amounts of time and energy into defining and refining cataloguing and classification standards over the years and has either taken the lead or contributed to the development of a number of systems that have gained broad acceptance by the community. The Dublin Core Metadata Element Set (DC) is an obvious example of a very widely used model and represents a useful contrast to the CRM in that the prescriptive elements (the 15 terms that are designed to contain all the data that might be associated with digital objects) are purposefully ‘underspecified’ to allow a variety of information types to be accommodated. In his very useful description of the test mapping of the Dublin Core Metadata Set to the CRM, Martin Doerr expands on this idea:

[quote]In other words, whereas the DC acquires its genericity by using “underspecified” notions, the CRM acquires genericity through constraint extensibility. Furthermore, whereas the DC makes proactive recommendations for developing finding aids, the CRM tries to interpret formats in a reactive manner.[/quote]

Other CRM mappings to standards that have significance to the MCH sector include MIDAS (the Monument Inventory Data Standard) and the Encoded Archival Description Element Set (EAD – an XML document type definition (DTD) for encoding archival finding aids).

Another important system that is widely used is SPECTRUM (Standard ProcEdures for CollecTions Recording Used in Museums) which is both a guide to good practice for museum documentation and a framework for identifying and describing the information which needs to be recorded to support those practices. An XML DTD has been developed to provide a system neutral document interchange format for museum collections systems which are based on or can map to the SPECTRUM standard. References to a number of other important initiatives, such as the VRA Core Metadata Schema and CDWA (Categories for the Descriptions of Works of Art) can be found in the reference section at the end of this paper along with links to sites that give summaries of current and retrospective standards.

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