A clear definition of the scope of an ontology is vital both for its correct interpretation and as a constraint during the process of development. For readers of the CIDOC CRM ontology, the scope definition provides answers to questions about what is and what is not covered by the ontology. For the authors, the scope definition guides their choices about what should be included or excluded. Without these constraints, the task of maintaining the CIDOC CRM would have a natural tendency to expand indefinitely, its purpose and interpretation would be in danger of losing focus, resulting in misunderstandings and confusion.
It is useful to make a distinction between the practical scope of the CIDOC CRM, and its intended scope:

  • The intended scope should be understood as the domain that the CIDOC CRM would ideally aim to cover, given sufficient time and resources, and is expressed as a definition of principle. The practical scope is, necessarily, a subset of the intended scope. The intended scope is difficult to define with the same degree of precision as the practical scope since it depends on concepts such as "cultural heritage" which are themselves complex and difficult to define. The objectives provided by the intended scope are important, however, since they allow appropriate sources to be selected for inclusion in the practical scope.
  • The practical scope can be defined as the current coverage of the CIDOC CRM ontology, and is expressed primarily in terms of the reference documents and sources that have been used in its elaboration. We can say that the CIDOC CRM covers the same domain as these reference sources. In concrete terms, 'mappings' are provided which enable translation to and from the source documents. The practical scope is also limited by contingent circumstances such as the availability of resources, the workload of the authors and technical considerations. The practical scope may evolve as new sources become relevant.

Intended Scope

The intended scope of the CIDOC CRM may be defined as all information required for the scientific documentation of cultural heritage collections, with a view to enabling wide area information exchange and integration of heterogeneous sources. This definition requires some explanation:

  • The term scientific documentation, is intended to convey the requirement that the depth and quality of descriptive information which can be handled by the CIDOC CRM should be sufficient for serious academic research into a given field and not merely that required for casual browsing. This does not mean that information intended for presentation to members of the general public is excluded, but rather that the CIDOC CRM is intended to provide the level of detail and precision expected and required by museum professionals and researchers in the field.
  • The term cultural heritage collections is intended to cover all types of material collected and displayed by museums and related institutions, as defined by ICOM (1). This includes collections, sites and monuments relating to natural history, ethnography, archaeology, historic monuments, as well as collections of fine and applied arts. The exchange of relevant information with libraries and archives, and the harmonisation of the CIDOC CRM with their models, fall within the CIDOC CRM's intended scope.
  • The documentation of collections is intended to encompass the detailed description both of individual items within collections as well as groups of items and collections as a whole. The scope of the CIDOC CRM is the curated knowledge of museums. Information required solely for the administration and management of cultural heritage institutions, such as information relating to personnel, accounting, and visitor statistics, falls outside the intended scope.
  • The CIDOC CRM is specifically intended to cover contextual information: the historical, geographical and theoretical background in which individual items are placed and which gives them much of their significance and value.
  • The goal of enabling information exchange and integration between heterogeneous sources determines the constructs and level of detail of the CIDOC CRM. It also determines its perspective, which is necessarily supra-institutional and abstracted from any specific local context.
  • The CIDOC CRM aims to leverage contemporary technology while enabling communication with legacy systems.

Practical Scope

The initial practical scope of the CIDOC CRM was defined by the International Guidelines for Museum Object Information: The CIDOC Information Categories , published in June 1995 (the Guidelines) (2).   This document, edited by a joint team of the CIDOC Data and Terminology and the Data Model Working Groups, resulted from the consolidation of two parallel initiatives: the Information Categories for Art and Archaeology Collections, 1992 and the CIDOC Relational Data Model 1995, both of which had been in gestation since 1980. The Guidelines thus represent the fruit of many years of collective effort and reflection concerning museum information and constituted an obvious starting point for the development of the CIDOC CRM. The first published version of the CIDOC CRM, Melbourne 1998, covers all the Guidelines, with the exception of elements that 3). 

The elements of the following data structures that fall within the intended scope define the practical scope of the CIDOC CRM. This will be verified by mappings that will be included in the supporting documentation.

  • Dublin Core
  • Art Museum Image Consortium (AMICO) (with the exception of data encoding information)
  • Encoded Archival Description (EAD)
  • Natural History Museum (London) John Clayton Herbarium Data Dictionary
  • National Museum of Denmark GENREG
  • International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR)
  • Association of American Museums Nazi-era Provenance Standard
  • MPEG7
  • Research Libraries Group (RLG) Cultural Materials Initiative DTD
  • Consortium for the Computer Interchange of Museum Information (CIMI) Z39.50 Profile
  • Council for the Prevention of Art Theft Object ID (core and recommended categories)
  • The International Committee for Documentation of the International Council of Museums (CIDOC) The International Core Data Standard for Archaeological and Architectural Heritage
  • Core Data Index to Historic Buildings and Monuments of the Architectural Heritage
  • CIDOC Normes Documentaires (Archeologie)/ Data Standards (Archaeology)
  • English Heritage MIDAS - A Manual and Data Standard for Monument Inventories
  • English Heritage SMR 97
  • Hellenic Ministry of Culture POLEMON Data Dictionary
Text status: 
To be reviewed