ICOM International Committee for Documentation

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May 25, 2022

Monika Hagedorn-Saupe (CIDOC’s President) welcome speech to CIDOC 2021 Conference, News

Dear Ms Merilin Piipou,

Dear members of the Local Organizing Committee,

Dear colleagues and friends from Estonia and from all over the world,

It is my great pleasure and privilege to speak to you a few words of opening at this, our Annual CIDOC conference 2021, taking place in May 2022 – for the first time as a hybrid conference, organized by our colleagues from the National Heritage Board of Estonia.

CIDOC is one of the oldest International Committees of ICOM, the International Council of Museums. Its history goes back to the 1950s. CIDOC – we are also proud of that – is also one of the bigger ICOM International Committees: CIDOC has some 700 members from all over the world. And CIDOC is a very active Committee, holding its meeting usually every year, organized in close partnership with national partners who undertake to organize the meeting and its program. We are very grateful for these continuous cooperation’s and for all the initiative and effort that our respective national partners invest into CIDOC’s annual meeting every year anew.

CIDOC holds its meetings usually annually, separate and self-contained in two consecutive years, and in each third year as a part of the overall ICOM General Conference, where all other ICOM International Committees also hold meetings (in August 2022 we will be in Prague).

CIDOC works in close cooperation with a number of partners, such as the UNESCO Chair of Cultural Heritage, with other ICOM Committees such as COMCOL, the ICOM Committee on Collecting, and CIMCIM, the ICOM Committee of museums and collections of instruments and music – with these two committees we will have joint sessions in Prague in August later this year.

Members of CIDOC and its museum community take part in such activities as e.g., the establishing of ISO International Standards, first of all, the CRM – Conceptual Reference Model (ISO 21127), and, later on, on questions of museum statistics and key indicators for museum activity (ISO 18641 and ISO 21246); but also in the wider context, on the common vocabulary of documentation institutions, that is, archives, libraries, museums, image and film documentation centers (ISO 5127).

Another international standard, which is now under the direction of ICOM, is the “Object ID”, a standard developed with participation of CIDOC by the Getty Foundation to ease the recovery of stolen cultural property objects.

CIDOC’s mission is research and practical activity in the field of documentation in museums, and particularly, the establishing of relevant standards for this documentation work, of which quite a number have been produced over the last 30 years. These standards concern both the very basic procedures of getting the documentation in a museum right, and they reach out to the more sophisticated practices of digital data curation and data exchange.

Looking on the very basic level only it is immediately obvious what disastrous consequences it has when good standard documentation procedures are not in place in a museum.

„Documentation“ is a central and core part of museum work and it is inseparably interwoven with all the activities which are carried out in a museum: exhibitions, exhibition planning and monitoring, collection management, educational work, research work a.s.o. Museum documentation is the key to all museum activities. As we state in our “Statement of Principles of museum documentation”: “With effective documentation, a museum should be able to facilitate: collection policies; collection care and accountability; collection access, interpretation and use; and collection research.” This means that “museum documentation” is not only concerned with cataloging, but instead has to support all the procedures in the museum. In this sense, the British SPECTRUM Standard is a tool to help museums to define their policies and best practices and is meanwhile being implemented and adapted in many countries.

And when we want to leave the museum wall and connect the knowledge about our collections with other places, other museums or research institutes, we need to agree on common standards, agree on terminologies and ways how to connect information. Several CIDOC working groups are concerned with related topics.

On the other hand information on our objects and collections in the museums is recorded, collected, and stored in many different languages. Thus structured multilingual vocabularies are needed when we want to make meaningful connections between the expertise coming from the different museums. Therefore CIDOC supports ongoing activities to further develop relevant vocabularies and therefore also connects with colleagues, e.g. from the Getty Trust who published the Getty Vocabularies as Linked Open Data so that they are more and more used.

In general, we need to keep in mind that today we are in a process of digital transformation which affects all the museum activities: it provides a lot of new opportunities, but it also puts demanding challenges.

When the CIDOC board agreed with the local organizing committee in Tallinn on this year’s topic about two years ago, we had hoped to have a physical conference in September 2021 here in Tallinn and that we would have overcome the worldwide COVID19 epidemic. When realizing that in 2021 we would only have the chance to have an online meeting again, we jointly agreed to postpone CIDOC2021 to May 2022. The hybrid-format our colleagues here in Estonia have agreed to work on (with national support and with the support of the Getty Foundation) allows us to reach-out also to colleagues in many countries of the world for whom a physical visit to Tallinn is still not possible. We are most grateful to the support we are getting.

Our sincere thanks go to the National Heritage Board of Estonia, the museums here in Tallinn allowing us to be with them and the Local organizing committee for organizing this event.

With this, I would like to wish us all a very thought-provoking CIDOC Annual Conference 2021 which hopefully supports our activities in our daily work at home and inspires further cooperation to support the work of museums. I would like to welcome you all to CIDOC2021 here in Tallinn and online and hope that by using all the potentials of a hybrid conference we will be able to learn from each other, exchange experiences and work together online and offline.

Tallinn, May 23, 2022