Issue 553: Equality and Respect Statement

Starting Date: 

Posted by Martin on 21/9/2021

Dear All,

Dominic Oldman and I would like to raise a new issue:

Whereas large efforts concentrate on migrating legacy data into CRM format, and the CRM is not meant to prescribe what to document, guide-lines and incentives for an optimal use of the ability of the CRM to create and cross-correlate contextual data might have a positive impact on the practice CH documentation, including mehods such as knowledge extraction from texts etc.

Posted by Dominic Oldman on 22/9/2021

Dear All,

Just adding to Martin's note.

The current CIDOC CRM says

“The CIDOC CRM is specifically intended to cover contextual information: the historical, geographical and theoretical background that gives museum collections much of their cultural significance and value”.

The practice in which organisations simply transfer their existing data to a new technology/standard without reviewing its contextual content creates several issues in terms of the contextual integration of data, communicating significance and relevance to wider audiences through data, and connected to this, and as we have discussed at the first meeting of the CRM Equality and Respect meeting, perpetuating inequality of representation in data. This is particularly important because many CH organisations directly publish their documentation records to the public as part of audience communication.

We propose a specific and regular CRM SIG discussion about how to promote the contextualising principles of the CRM - since this is a core aspect of the CIDOC CRM - and address these issues by improving and disseminating information about the relevance of the CIDOC-CRM for organisations beyond existing documentation scopes.

Current Proposal: 

Redrafted Equality and Respect Statement by MD & DO (9 May 2022)

The CIDOC CRM Special Interest Group (SIG) is a collaboration of people developing the CIDOC CRM (Conceptual Reference Model) standard. The CIDOC CRM standard is used by many Cultural Heritage and Humanities professionals and institutions across the world. It is committed to promoting equality of representation and participation in its activities, whether in relation to the standard itself, or supporting wider processes. As a standards committee, we will treat all people with dignity and respect in an environment free of discrimination. Our aim is to encourage open and constructive dialogues and provide an environment in which all participants feel comfortable to take part and contribute.
The CIDOC CRM itself is intended to support the development of contextual information in data: the social, historical, geographical, and theoretical background that gives historical collections, archives, and facts much of their significance and relevance. It also provides the means to include epistemological information through an argumentation extension. It allows and encourages data owners and users to widen the scope and sources of information that are used in datasets, which can be limited by some traditional practices that focus on intrinsic material and identity properties. This means that datasets can often omit relevant socio-historical and epistemological information from the data history record.   
CIDOC CRM is not prescriptive in terms of the types of information that can be modelled and documented, and its design intention is to include a wider range of knowledge. It provides a scientific framework pegged to universally understood reality and therefore provides the opportunity - which corresponds to a responsibility - to record contextual information including the social relations which are part of history and heritage. In practice it provides the means to consider a wider and inclusive picture of historical information. The general trend of institutions publishing their data online, and allowing its reuse across other information structures, only increases the urgency of this issue. 
The legacy of structured data in institutional databases based on intrinsic data schemas is historically ingrained not just in technology but also in practices. It is important to note that it is not simply the use of CIDOC CRM or other contextualising models that is important. Contextual and inclusive enrichment of data to provide equality of representation is part of a reform of institutional processes generally and is an ongoing responsibility. Institutions should be constantly aware of the wider significance and relevance of their data (and missing data) in terms of their internal processes and the tools they adopt to support them. The CIDOC CRM SIG is committed to providing examples and guidance that demonstrate how currently underrepresented or missing history can be addressed in structured data systems and is open to anyone requiring more information and advice.


In the 53rd CIDOC CRM & 46th FRBRoo SIG meeting, MD gave some background on the issue, namely that the crm is not prescriptive in what counts as a cultural heritage item, but it offers ways to document them.

The text drafted by MD & DO (shared through the relates to the work of the Bias WG: the document was motivated by the discussions within the Bias WG and the intention of producing such a document was to register that the CRM must be kept neutral with respect to to various sources of bias (gender, religion, culture, race, etc). 

The point of the document is not to describe everything as if it were equal, but that all things (irrespective of origin etc) are equally respected.

Discussion points:

  • There has not been enough discourse and debate around this statement to accept it as such.
  • The text is practically impossible to disagree with content-wise, however the process by means of which it was produced, did not involve the active participation and engagement of a larger community (that is not centered around Crete or Europe).
  • The statement is considered as a quick response to potential criticism (that the model is informed by practices of museums that evoke a colonial past –there is an ongoing discourse at CIDOC with organizations from S.America and Polynesia that the Sig could benefit from).
  • Instead of producing a verbose statement, we could simply state that “The CIDOC CRM Sig is open to criticism”, while we continue to look for constructs that project biases in the model with the aim of revising them. Engaging with external organizations might be a place to start with. Worlding Public Cultures, and the Bias WG (see Issue 530) are such candidates.
  • On the other hand, the Sig is as inclusive as it can be –any organization/individual can join, and their point of view is by default considered valid and discussed. Being adopted as an official standard in China, and the ongoing work in Iran means that the user-base of the CRM is expanding and it becomes de facto more inclusive.

Proposal: The discourse in the text by MD & DO should feed into the work of the Bias WG.

Everyone in agreement

Decision: proceed as proposed.

Issue closed

May 2022

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