I am attending a workshop on the Conceptual Reference Model created by the International Council of Museums Committee on Documentation (CIDOC) this week.
The CIDOC Conceptual Reference Model (CRM) was created as a means of enabling information interchange and integration in the museum community and beyond. It “provides definitions and a formal structure for describing the implicit and explicit concepts and relationships used in cultural heritage documentation”.
It became an ISO standard in 2006 and a Special Interest Group continues to work to develop it and keep it in line with progress in conceptualisation for information integration.
The vision is to facilitate the harmonization of information across the cultural heritage sector, encompassing museums, libraries and archives, helping to create a global resource. The CRM is effectively an ontology describing concepts and relationships relevant to this kind of information. It is not in any sense a content standard, rather it takes what is available and looks at the underlying logic, analysing the structure in order to progress semantic interoperability.
I come to this as someone with a keen interest in interoperability, and I think that the Archives community should engage more actively in cross-sectoral initiatives that benefit resource discovery. I am interested to find out more about the practical application and adoption of the CRM. My concern is that in the attempt to cover all eventualities, it seems like quite a complex model. It seeks to ‘provide the level of detail and precision expected and required by museum professionals and researchers’. It covers detailed descriptions, contexts and relationships, which can often be very complex. The SIG is looking to harmonise the CRM with archival standards, which should take the cultural heritage sector a step further towards working together to share our resources.
I will be interested to learn more about the Model and I would like to consider how the CRM relates to what is going on in the wider environment, and particularly with reference to Linked Data and, more basically, the increasing recognition of web architecture as the core means to disseminate information. Initiatives to bring data together, to interconnect, should move us closer to integrated information systems, but we want to make sure that we have complimentary approaches.
You can read more about the Conceptual Reference Model on the CIDOC CRM website.