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Object IDThe International standard for describing cultural objects.

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About Object ID

Object ID is an international standard for describing cultural objects. It has been developed through the collaboration of the museum community, police and customs agencies, the art trade, insurance industry, and valuers of art and antiques.

The Object ID project was initiated by the J. Paul Getty Trust in 1993 and the standard was launched in 1997. It is being promoted by major law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, Scotland Yard and Interpol; museum, cultural heritage, art trade and art appraisal organisations; and insurance companies.

Having established the descriptive standard, the Object ID project now helps to combat art theft by encouraging use of the standard and by bringing together organisations around the world that can encourage its implementation.

In 1999, the Object ID project found a new home at the Council for the Prevention of Art Theft (CoPAT). CoPAT was established in 1992 and is now a registered charity in the UK. Its mission is to promote crime prevention in the fields of art, antiques, antiquities and architecture. Its members are drawn from law enforcement, the crime prevention field, heritage organisations, historic house owners, the insurance industry and the art trade. CoPAT has participated in the project since its early stages and has played a significant role in the development of the standard.

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Why It Is Needed

The illicit trade in cultural objects is now widely recognized as one of the most prevalent categories of international crime. The proceeds of thefts, forgery, ransoms, and smuggling operations involving cultural objects are often used to fund other criminal activities, the objects themselves serving as both a medium of exchange between criminals and a means of laundering the profits of crime.

The police have long recognised the importance of good documentation in the fight against art thieves. Documentation is indeed crucial to the protection of art and antiques, for police officers can rarely recover and return objects that have not been photographed and adequately described. Police forces have custody of large numbers of objects that have been recovered in the course of operations, but which cannot be returned to their rightful owners because there is no documentation that makes it possible to identify the victims.

To download a leaflet about CoPAT as a PDF file, click on this icon.  

You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view it. Follow this link to Adobe’s site to download a free copy: Acrobat Reader 4.0

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The Object ID Checklist

Take Photographs

Photographs are of vital importance in identifying and recovering stolen objects. In addition to overall views, take close-ups of inscriptions, markings, and any damage or repairs. If possible, include a scale or object of known size in the image.

Answer These Questions:

Type of Object

What kind of object is it (e.g., painting, sculpture, clock, mask)?

Materials & Techniques

What materials is the object made of (e.g., brass, wood, oil on canvas)? How was it made (e.g., carved, cast, etched)?


What is the size and/or weight of the object? Specify which unit of measurement is being used (e.g., cm., in.) and to which dimension the measurement refers (e.g., height, width, depth).

Inscriptions & Markings

Are there any identifying markings, numbers, or inscriptions on the object (e.g., a signature, dedication, title, maker's marks, purity marks, property marks)?

Distinguishing Features

Does the object have any physical characteristics that could help to identify it (e.g., damage, repairs, or manufacturing defects)?


Does the object have a title by which it is known and might be identified (e.g., The Scream)?


What is pictured or represented (e.g., landscape, battle, woman holding child)?

Date or Period

When was the object made (e.g., 1893, early 17th century, Late Bronze Age)?


Do you know who made the object? This may be the name of a known individual (e.g., Thomas Tompion), a company (e.g., Tiffany), or a cultural group (e.g., Hopi).

Write a Short Description

This can also include any additional information which helps to identify the object (e.g., color and shape of the object, where it was made).

Keep It Secure

Having documented the object, keep this information in a secure place.

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*Object ID ™ is a trademark of the J. Paul Getty Trust. Use of this trademark is prohibited without permission from: The Council for the Prevention of Art Theft, The Estate Office, Stourhead Park, Stourton, Warminster, Wiltshire BA12 6QD, United Kingdom. The J. Paul Getty Trust, 1999. All rights reserved.

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