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Agreement IV: A Standards Framework

This version dated August 5, 1997

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The Standards Framework outlines AMICO's approach to evaluating and adopting the standards needed to create The AMICO Library and distribute products derived from it for educational uses. It sets out the values that should govern the decisions taken by members of the consortium in final agreements about standards, in order to assess the costs and benefits of their participation

1. Purpose and Goals
1.1 An integrated suite of standards - the Standards Framework - is required to enable the collection, collation and distribution of the collective digital documentation of AMICO member museums to the educational community.
1.2 Specific decisions about individual standards will follow from agreement on this framework. Choices will be informed by the values expressed here, and the analysis of the existing state of AMICO MembersÍ digital documentation. The specific costs to any given institution of participating in AMICO will emerge from a comparison of their digital documentation to the standards defined by AMICOÍs Members .
2. Criteria for Assessing Standards
2.1 Shared Standards are required for the operation of AMICO
2.1.1 The management of The AMICO Library depends upon the contribution of documentation in a consistent and predictable manner. This will be enabled by Members adhering to common standards.
2.1.2 A significant portion of the value of AMICO Products to the educational community will be in predictability and consistency, qualities that require adherence to standards. AMICO Members must adopt a Standards Framework that enables their contributed content to form an integrated whole from a userÍs perspective
2.2 Standards should enable AMICO to achieve its mission
The relevant standards are those which will enable:
2.2.1 documenting works in museums collections
2.2.2 contributing digital documentation to a shared database, to create The AMICO Library
2.2.3 managing The AMICO Library
2.2.4 searching the contents of the Library on the AMICO Catalog server
2.2.5 distributing products based on that Library to licensees
2.2.6 integrating the distributed contents of products with other information resources of educational institutions
2.2.7 using detailed information from AMICO Products in research and teaching
2.3 Standards adopted by AMICO should be open and community based
Proprietary technologies or strategies should be avoided if they impede access to the AMICO Catalogue or use of AMICO Products derived from it.
2.4 Standards should accommodate the full range of existing museum documentation
2.4.1 Digital textual, audio and video documentation should completely and accurately represent analog documentation available in museum s
2.4.2 The data content (chunks of information, whether fields, documents, images, sound files of audio tours, etc.) should be meaningful to users
2.4.3 Genres of documents (exhibition history, publication history, provenance, condition reports, education materials, etc.) should reflect existing museum documentation, and not require the creation of new data content.
2.5 Standards should not impose unnecessary requirements
Standards adopted by AMICO should enable the operation of the Consortium but not impose an undue burden on its members.
2.5.1 Standards that mesh with existing museum practices will be preferred.
2.5.2 Required information should be generally available in museum documentation systems.
2.5.3 Additional requirements should be justified by the needs of users and periodically re-evaluated.
2.6 Adopting standards has both costs and benefits
Some costs of following the standards framework set out by AMICO may not be directly offset by savings to the data creator.
2.6.1 Standards which could save money and effort for recordsÍ creators should be sought.
2.6.2 The overall benefits of adopting standards to the community of users should be sufficient to offset the added costs of employing them. Standards that are widely adopted in existing technology infrastructures should be employed. Standards that require minimal effort on the part of receiving institutions to redeploy distributed information in their own networks should be favored. Standards that conform to the existing metadata (technical and descriptive cataloging) standards for educational resources should be favored.
2.7 Conformance should be as easy as possible.
Contributing data conforming to adopted standard should not require new information content or additional control over information values if transformation can be achieved by automated means.
2.7.1 If data values in defined fields can be linked with synonymous values through use of approved thesauri, no "preferred" terms should be established.
2.7.2 If utilities for format conversion can bring non-conforming data into conformance by automated means, such tools and processes should be supported by the Consortium rather than developed and/or maintained by each member.
2.7.3 If data content in defined structures can be generated by mapping from more finely detailed structures in the museum data, such mappings and reformatting should be facilitated.
2.7.4 If data content in defined structures can be generated by syntactic or semantic searches of existing museum data, such extraction should be employed.
2.8 Standards employed by AMICO should be subject to regular review
The user community and the museum community should assess the standards in use by AMICO as necessary, to ensure that they reflect evolving international standards for cultural information.
2.8.1 The experience both of AMICO members and educational users should govern use of standards
2.8.2 New standards should be evaluated as they are proposed, and reassessed over time, as they are approved and adopted by others.
2.8.3 Adequate advanced warning should be provided both to information contributors and information users of proposed changes in the AMICO standards framework.
2.8.4 Adequate time periods should be allowed and methods established to ensure smooth transitions between generations of standards.
2.8.5 AMICO should remain aware of and inform members of relevant developments in information standards worldwide.
2.8.6 AMICO should participate in cultural heritage standards development when necessary to meet its goals.
3. Recommendations Regarding Standards
3.1 Evaluate Standards Based on Application Needs
3.1.1 Standards should be selected based on their ability to serve concrete purposes.
3.1.2 Standards which have been promoted in the museum and education communities should be assessed on the basis of the need for them in this specific application.
3.1.3 Standards should not be adopted for their own sake.
3.2 User Needs Determine Content Delivered
3.2.1 Content standards should ensure that certain information required by the educational community is included. Information about intellectual property rights is essential. Citation of sources for information is desirable. Citation of attribution is desirable. Providing details about disputed facts is desirable. Recording the degree of certainty and quality of documentation is desirable.
3.2.2 Information delivered should be discretely identified at the level required for research and education. ñFieldsî should be defined according to usersÍ needs. Indexing requirements (rather than possible logical or semantic distinctions) should determine the degree to which terminology should be de-coordinated and values distinguished, for concepts like medium/technique/support, dimensions/measures, style/period. Structuring contents of textual museum documentation such as condition reports is not necessary.
3.2.3 Content not required for research and education should not be included. Access to confidential museum data is not desirable. Access to details of collections management, including location of the original, shipping data, insurance data etc. is neither useful nor desirable.
3.3 Data Content Standards
The Categories for the Description of Works of Art (CDWA available at is the data content standard which comes closest to expressing the requirements of higher educational users of art for fielded data. The CDWA will be used to establish AMICO Content requirements.
3.3.1 Fielded Text
A minimal set of AMICO Core text data fields will be derived from the CDWA core categories.
3.3.2 Less Structured Text
The contribution of additional textual documentation, of a less structured kind will be encouraged. These documents, including exhibition history, conservation history, etc., will be delivered according to common data formats (most likely RTF and SGML) and accompanied by associated descriptive metadata.
3.3.3 Image
Digital images should be provided to The AMICO Library according to a set of Guidelines. These will specify: Agreed resolution and bit depth. A minimum standard tentatively agreed by planning members was 24 bit, 1024x768 pixels, captured from 35mm slides. Higher quality images are preferred File format, most likely TIFF. Appropriate accompanying metadata (documenting file type, resolution, bit depth, etc.) most likely based on the Dublin Core Image watermarking technology (once investigated) Original image capture (photography) standards should be discussed, with a goal of producing guidelines over the longer term.
3.3.4 Sound
Since no sound standards are currently adopted in the cultural heritage community, broadly implemented commercial standards should be evaluated. Initial formats will include WAV and AIFF. Real Audio will be investigated, but most likely discouraged, as it is of lesser quality, and results from conversion form another format. Sound files should be accompanied by appropriate metadata (descriptive textual information), most likely defined based on the Dublin Core (see
3.3.5 Video
Standards for video should include QuickTime, MPEG and MPEG2. Video files should be accompanied by appropriate metadata (descriptive textual information), most likely defined based on the Dublin Core.
3.3.6 Multimedia
No predefined multimedia content standard will constrain contributions to The AMICO Library initially. Redistribution will be in native formats. Multimedia files should be accompanied by appropriate metadata (descriptive textual information), most likely defined based on the Dublin Core.
3.3.7 Vector, 3D and VR
Standards for vector, three dimensional and Virtual Reality data need to be investigated. They will include QTVR.
3.4 Data Value Standards
Where possible, AMICO should adopt available and implemented terminology standards.
3.4.1 Appropriate fields should contain values defined by the Art and Architecture Thesaurus (AAT; see
3.4.2 Appropriate fields should contain values that could be in the Union List of Artists Names (ULAN; see even if the artists are not yet part of ULAN. Links between these terms and Library of Congress Name Authorities (LCNA) should be supported.
3.4.3 Appropriate fields should contain data from the Thesaurus of Geographic Names (TGN; see
3.4.4 Appropriate fields should contain Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH), when relevant.
3.4.5 The data values (terminology, language, constructs for expressing measures, time, etc.) should conform to agreed thesauri and templates of documentation.
3.4.6 AMICO will develop strategies for enhancing the data values recorded with terminology available in these standards.
3.5 Data Structure
A Technical Specification will be established for the structure of data delivered to AMICO, that specifies mark-up schemes, fields, delimiters, character sets, etc.
3.5.1 Syntax and Labeling Markup languages can provide a flexible and extensible framework for labeling. AMICO should explore the mark-up languages SGML and XML which could support the content-based labeling required by this application.
3.5.2 Semantics Existing semantic expressions of the content (all or core) required by AMICO (including Dublin Core semantics with qualifiers, existing Document Type Definitions (DTD's, etc.) should be evaluated based on need. Discipline specific rules and classification systems (meta-schema) should be declared within each record in a standard fashion when such standards are developed. Innovations reflected in the Museum Educational Site Licensing Project (MESL) data dictionary with respect to larger chunks of data (documents by genre) should be adopted whenever more detailed analysis of data items is not essential.
3.6 Data Interchange and Security
3.6.1 A record level envelope with appropriate encryption should be developed for interchange. The Reference Model for Business Acceptable Communications could be used as an evaluation framework.
3.6.2 File level interchange should use file formats consistent with ISO 9660 (CD-ROM)
3.6.3 AMICO should become involved in the definition of unique identifiers for networked digital objects (file names for digital objects which will be guaranteed unique across the entire Internet and persist over time and across changes of hardware and software platforms) and select a standard as soon as possible.
3.6.4 AMICO should select a watermarking standard for use by the consortium and its members.
3.7 Data Discovery
3.7.1 AMICO should undertake minimal development to provide a searchable catalog. Access to a catalog of The AMICO Library should be offered through a straight-forward "Web-enabled" application to standard Internet browsers rather than through higher level search protocols.
3.7.2 Other distributors of The AMICO Library should be encouraged to provide Z39.50 (the information search and retrieval protocol)-based access or other access methods common in their communities.
3.8 Involvement in Standards Making
AMICO should become involved in standards making efforts when these are of direct interest to its members or an immediate need of the collaborative.

Copyright Archives & Museum Informatics, the Art Museum Network and the Association of Art Museum Directors.

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