In 1993 the Getty Information Institute initiated a collaborative project to develop an international documentation standard for the information needed to identify cultural objects. The new standard has been developed in collaboration with police forces, customs agencies, museums, the art trade, valuers, and the insurance industry.

The contents of the standard were identified by a combination of background research, interviews, and, most importantly, by major international questionnaire surveys. In total, over 1,000 responses were received from organizations in 84 countries. The findings of these surveys — published in Protecting Cultural Objects in the Global Information Society — demonstrated that there was close agreement on the information needed to describe objects for purposes of identification. The result is the Object ID checklist.*

Object ID is easy to use. Just follow the checklist and try to answer as many of the questions as possible.

Object ID Checklist

Take Photographs
Photographs are of vital importance in identifying and recovering stolen objects. In addition to overall views, take close-ups of inscriptions, markings, and any damage or repairs. If possible, include a scale or object of known size in the image.

Answer these questions:

Type of Object
What kind of object is it (e.g., painting, sculpture, clock, mask)?

Materials & Techniques
What materials is the object made of (e.g., brass, wood, oil on canvas)? How was it made (e.g., carved, cast, etched)?

What is the size and/or weight of the object? Specify which unit of measurement is being used (e.g., cm., in.) and to which dimension the measurement refers (e.g., height, width, depth).

Inscriptions & Markings
Are there any identifying markings, numbers, or inscriptions on the object (e.g., a signature, dedication, title, maker’s marks, purity marks, property marks)?

Distinguishing Features
Does the object have any physical characteristics that could help to identify it (e.g., damage, repairs, or manufacturing defects)?

Does the object have a title by which it is known and might be identified (e.g., The Scream)?

What is pictured or represented (e.g., landscape, battle, woman holding child)?

Date or Period
When was the object made (e.g., 1893, early 17th century, Late Bronze Age)?

Do you know who made the object? This may be the name of a known individual (e.g., Thomas Tompion), a company (e.g., Tiffany), or a cultural group (e.g., Hopi).

Write a Short Description
This can also include any additional information, which helps to identify the object (e.g., color and shape of the object, where it was made).

Keep It Secure
Having documented the object, keep this information in a secure place.

*Object ID is the trademark of the J. Paul Getty Trust. Use of this trademark is prohibited without permission from: The Council for the Prevention of Art Theft, The Estate Office, Stourhead Park, Stourton, Warminster, Wiltshire BA12 6Qd, United Kingdom

© The J. Paul Getty Trust, 1999. All rights reserved.





Nelson O. Clayton is an Accredited Senior Appraiser of the American Society of Appraisers. He is designated in Personal Property Residential Contents-General and Antiques and Decorative Arts. He is also a Certified Appraiser of Personal Property of the International Society of Appraisers, Inc., approved to appraise Antiques and Residential Contents. He is actively engaged in the appraisal of household contents, and antiques and decorative arts and he is building his credentials in silver, and fine arts. With consultation with experts, he has appraised paintings and sculpture in the appraised range of $10-$550,000, individual items of silver in the $40,000 range, clocks in the $30,000 range, and furniture in the $125,000 range. His training at the Winterthur Museum helped him to develop these skills. In addition, he is trained in research and analysis, first as a senior bank-lending officer, and second, as an appraiser. In every assignment, Mr. Clayton continues to develop his skills by identifying and analyzing complete household contents, collections, and family heirlooms. Mr. Clayton’s appraisal business has been developed through personal referral and direct contact with families requiring appraisal of their household contents, primarily for estate tax planning and settlement, donations, divorce and insurance purposes. He has evaluated complete household contents as well as selected individual items.