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The (non-virtual) Reality of the Heritage Record

ICOMOS 11th General Assembly - Sofia, Bulgaria Oct 5-9, 1996
Heritage and Social Change - Methodologies and Techniques

Author: Steve Nickerson


As ICOMOS struggles to adapt to changing technology there is something that does not appear to have been fully grasped by the conservation community. It is that the Heritage Record is fundamentally different, from a data management perspective, from the information, around which, all the exciting developments towards multimedia and virtual reality have been taking place.

The first difference is that, whereas a museum or special exhibit is processing a relatively small amount of data for relatively large audience, the initial record comprises a huge amount of data with almost no audience at all. As a result, the large amount of overhead required to present this data to the public in these flashy formats will never be justified and other modes of presentation must be developed.

The other difference that needs to be addressed is the long term accessibility of this information. These records must be maintained in perpetuity, long past the memory of the recorder or archivist and using formats and procedures independent of hardware and software standards as well as arbitrary indexing schemes such as cadastral identification and even political designations.

This paper will propose a structure for such a database with an indexing schema based on geographic position, storage procedures based on constant renewal and data standards accessible to all hardware and software. Current data processing realities will be acknowledged by the presentation of tools, currently under development, that will convert archival data to these standards while creating the interface that would allow public access over the Internet.

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    Last change: 8 July, 1997 (Steve Nickerson)