The International Committee for Documentation's Conceptual Reference Model (CIDOC-CRM) is an International Standard developed for the interchange of cultural heritage information, more specifically, metadata about collection materials held by ‘memory institutions’ – Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums. It is an ontology that maps metadata fields, but also the relationships between fields. In this way, the mapping process requires a deep understanding of not only what a data field is recording, but the relationship that information has with the other fields of information in the data. The mapping process therefore is one of deep analysis of the information held by a collection/content management system. My research proposes to apply the mapping process as methodology for understanding and reconciling the different information management systems for photographic collections.
Photographs exist across all types of collecting institutions, and therefore have been documented using the different standard methodologies inherent in collecting institutions. This feat of ubiquity has been possible due to what has been referred to photographs’ ‘polysemic’ nature – that is, it can be interpreted as having the characteristics of all predominant types of collection item: art, publication, document and object. Photographs are at once all, and none, of these things. In order to reconcile what appear to be conflicting understandings regarding the nature of photographs in collections, a deep understanding of what each of these institutions mean when they document a piece of information about photographs is required. In this presentation, I will demonstrate mapping examples of photographic data to CIDOC-CRM and explain how each reveal core differences regarding how photographs are understood as collection items, but also the commonalities in what data is recorded about them. Understanding photographic collection data in this way will aid in developing frameworks for converged metadata in a digital environment.