5.1 Standardization of data



Some objects can be described in an exact, even coded, way, following an established convention. This, for instance, is the case with musical instruments. Rigorous scientific studies have been carried out by ethnomusicologists, and there exist description grids for each type of instrument.

Standardized descriptions are very often associated with a particular discipline (e.g. ethnomusicology, archeology, natural history, etc.)

So that the documentation may be standardized, it is advisable, insofar as possible, to use the same vocabulary and the same descriptive system for objects and similar items in a given museum. To this end, a thesaurus or a list (glossary) is most often used. The latter, unlike a thesaurus, is not or is only slightly hierarchized. A number of thesauruses are available, according to disciplines, subjects, etc.

If you do this from the outset, even if your museum is not computerized, it will allow a more efficient use of collection management software when it is deployed by your institution.


Existing resources (English):

Aide-mémoire for Documentation in museums, n° 3, Recommendations for the description of objects, EPA-ICCROM
Here you will find a number of suggestions for describing objects and on standardization.
Handbook of standards, Documenting African collections, ICOM.
This manual is available online but is also published in paper format. It is useful even for users who do not adhere to AFRICOM standards. It provides a thesaurus, or rather terminology lists for different areas: country names, categories by function, materials, etc.
Vocabulary of basic Terms for Cataloguing Costume, ICOM.
Although this resource is concerned mainly with European dress, it may provide ideas or vocabulary for our targeted museums and offers a framework that can be added to. Images help some aspects of costume to be better understood.
Thesaurus principles and practice, Willpower Information, Information Management Consultants
Good introduction to issues of standardization and thesauruses. Rather complicated toward the end of the document.
Terminology Control, Collections Link.
Good short introduction to checking terminology and syntax.

In French:

Vocabulaires scientifiques, Ministère de la culture, France.
These lists (lexicons and thesauruses), which are updated twice a year by the Joconde network, can be downloaded in RTF format for offline use. They contain the terminologies for use, techniques and materials, study methods, legal status, periods, subjects, iconography, etc., for the documentation of the fine arts collections. In French only.
Définitions des techniques, médiums, matériaux et supports (déc. 2003), Ministère de la culture, France.
This list of terminology can be downloaded in RTF format for offline use, and can be used to document fine arts collections even by museums that do not belong to the Joconde network. In French only.


If these resources become unavailable, you will be able to find some of them on the EPA website. They were captured in March 2009 and checked in January 2011. You can find the Spanish resources on the ILAM website. They were captured in November 2009 and checked in January 2011.

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