The work of CIDOC (International Committee for DOCumentation) and ICOM (International Council of Museum)

CIDOC CRM was developed by the International Committee for DOCumentation (CIDOC) of the International Council of Museum (ICOM). This semantic model constitutes an "ontology" of information relating to cultural heritage, coming from the world of museums, with multi-domain ambitions (libraries, archives and research institutions).

The model has been standardized and published in 2006 by ISO as an international standard (ISO 21127: 2006). CIDOC CRM is the international standard for controlled exchange of cultural heritage data. Since then, the model has evolved. It is maintained by the CRM Special Interest Group. Version 5 of the template was published in 2008. The latest version, version 6.2.1, is from October 2015. A new version of the ISO standard (ISO 21127: 2014), published in December 2014, is based on the version 5.0.4 of CIDOC CRM. Finally, the CIDOC CRM exists encoded in RDFS and OWL. 

The use of CIDOC CRM, FRBRoo and Linked Data makes it possible to fill the need to integrate different resources with portals offering federated searches in order to facilitate the discovery of resources coming from different collections or even from different domains (museums, libraries, archives). In addition, the desire to make data available from heritage institutions and the web search of data requires making information comprehensible outside a database(the Biblissima portal, which aims to make some 40 resources on the written heritage of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance interoperable, is part of this problematic).

CIDOC CRM proposes also an ontology that represents the underlying semantics of cultural heritage documentation structures. These fundamental concepts are the objects (material, decor, inscriptions), their creation and their evolution (preservation, modifications that they have undergone, etc.), their speakers, their location, their documentation.

It is an empirical ontology, that is to say that it is based on the documentation of models and practices of cultural institutions. This makes it possible to interpret the actual descriptions produced by museums and leads to a shared explanation of the semantics of cultural heritage. Finally, it's an object-oriented model.

This conceptual reference model means two things:

  • it is general (however, it can be specified by extensions that specify certain concepts).
  • It is independent of any technical implementation. Indeed, the design of a representation of knowledge should not be based on or dependent on a particular technology. However, it is generally used with the RDF (Resource Description Framework), the Linked Data standard.

The CIDOC CRM is not prescriptive, it does not dictate a common data structure (no fields or mandatory values). It does not care about the different terminologies used by cultural institutions, while allowing to "plug" local terminologies.

Objectives of CIDOC CRM:

  • "The primary role of CRM is to enable exchange and integration between heterogeneous sources of on cultural heritage information "
  • It provides semantic definitions and necessary clarifications (a common language) to heterogeneous sources of information to enable their integration despite semantic or structural incompatibilities.

By these definitions, the CIDOC CRM creates a framework for the harmonization of data: it allows cultural institutions to make compatible their documentation without losing any of their specificities or the degree of accuracy of their data and thus facilitates the exchange and research in the field of cultural heritage.