The International RecorDIM Initiative

(Recording, Documentation and Information Management)

By: Francois LeBlanc, Arch. OAQ, Head, Field Projects,

The Getty Conservation Institute, Los Angeles, California

This paper was presented during the Architecture Specialty Group session of the AIC Annual Meeting in Minneapolis, MN, June 8-13, 2005


RecorDIM is an international 5-year (2002-07) partnership between heritage conservation organizations or institutions working together to bridge the gaps that currently exist between the information users (researchers, conservation specialists of all trades, project managers, planners etc.) and the information providers (photographers, heritage recorders, photogrammetrists, surveyors, etc.).

The Partners in this Initiative are individuals from institutions that have created and continue to support an active Task Group to bridge one or several of the gaps identified in earlier international meetings of experts. The Partners meet once a year to review progress, receive feedback, and approve the creation of new Task Groups. They promote the Initiative during roundtable meetings organized in collaboration with various international heritage conservation organizations. The international Coordinator for this Initiative is Robin Letellier, a Canadian recording and documentation specialist for heritage places. His efforts are supported in part through the Documentation Initiative project of the Getty Conservation Institute based in Los Angeles.

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On March 4-5, 2002, twenty-three experts in recording, documentation and information management were convened by the Getty Conservation Institute in Los Angeles as the first stage of the RecorDIM initiative was put in place.

Representing both “users” and “providers” of documentation, the experts prepared a list of gaps and needs that they considered should be addressed in priority by the heritage conservation community. Several participants to this meeting also agreed to take on some of these gaps and needs and work together to try to address them.


 1. To improve perception and communication in heritage recording, documentation, and information management

  1. By information dissemination
    Very little information specific to the purpose and benefits of heritage recording, documentation and information management is currently being distributed to and shared between information users and providers. Partners need to understand each others’ role and responsibilities better. (Users believe providers are rooted in the future and providers believe that users are rooted in the past.) More needs to be done to educate users of available tools and providers of the goals of conservation management.

  2. By creating bibliographies, thesauruses, definitions
    There is an urgent need for the compilation of a complete bibliography of recent publications on heritage recording, documentation and information management tools, technologies and applications. (Information is often published as conference or symposium proceedings, but not easily accessible.)

  3. By creating focused newsletters
    Currently, there is no international periodical in the field that allows experts in recording, documentation and information management to share their knowledge and experience. This communication tool would be an effective way to bridge the gap between information users and providers
  4. By establishing integrated professional networks
    Although specialized professional networks already exist and provide forums for exchange on specialized topics, they need to be strengthened. Multidisciplinary exchanges are growing in many disciplines, bringing together varied expertise for complex projects. Heritage conservation is a complex activity that requires exchange of ideas and information and the integration of diverse skills and knowledge.

  5. By encouraging joint symposia, seminars and tradeshows
    A growing number of specialized groups already meet to exchange on specific technical subjects. CIPA is an example of a very specialized international scientific committee that is working towards inviting experts outside the discipline to their meetings. There is a need for other ICOMOS scientific committees (and other organizations) to join the RecorDIM Initiative and be part of symposia and seminars to build bridges between heritage recorders and conservation specialists.

  6. By involving the private sector and outside organizations
    It is critical to involve the private sector in RecorDIM activities. The private sector needs to be exposed to governmental conservation practices since government often is responsible for managing projects. Education and dissemination of knowledge should reach beyond the traditional conservation community. It is particularly important to communicate the benefits of documentation to owners, interpreters and marketers, among others, by showcasing model projects and best practices.

2. To integrate recording, documentation and information management activities into the conservation process

  1. By developing and implementing recording and documentation processes
    One of the important gaps named during the roundtable was the fact that few organizations have developed a recording and documentation process that is integrated into their conservation activities. Furthermore, few information users work within a well-defined conservation process. The group expressed an urgent need for promoting the integration of these activities to increase effectiveness in conservation practices.

  2. By including recording, documentation and information management practices in conservation management guidelines
    Conservation management guidelines exist, but few refer to the importance of recording and documentation as activities that should be central to conservation practices. There is a need for guidelines that provide heritage conservation managers and practitioners with proper guidance and direction. Users and providers of information must develop such guidelines jointly.

3. To increase resources for documentation

  1. By promoting its benefits
    Decision makers are often unaware of the purpose and benefits of recording, documentation and information management activities. It was suggested that the benefits of these activities can be demonstrated by case studies and best practices. Another major benefit is that RecorDIM activities also provide ‘posterity records’ for future generations. As investments in recording and documentation improve quality and cost effectiveness, bigger budgets should be allocated to recording activities.

  2. By writing related policies
    To ensure sustainable resources for documentation activities, policies must clearly state that these heritage recording, documentation and information management are integral parts of the conservation process. Such policies are essential to sustaining the discipline in the long term.

    Archiving with concurrent cost implications is another area where policy guidance is required to make better-informed decisions.

4. To define, develop and promote documentation tools

  1. By writing:
    - Standards
    - Guidelines
    - Handbooks
    - Best practices

    There must be well-defined standards and guidelines to ensure a good level of understanding and knowledge of documentation and recording principles and practices. Handbooks generally complement the standards and guidelines and case studies help link theory to reality. Few publications on these subjects exist.
  1. By encouraging the development of software
    Some general commercial software is used for documentation activities but in many cases without the level of effectiveness and accuracy that can be achieved with specialized software. Better software will facilitate and expedite conservation work by assisting in producing better records, research, analysis, design, maintenance and monitoring. Information users can encourage the production of better, more specialized software by promoting its benefits, sharing customer feedback with producers, and investing more in technology (e.g., low-cost rectified-photography and 3D modeling software).

  2. By encouraging the development of hardware
    Hardware can be cost-effective if well designed for specific applications. Through outreach to the private sector, universities and research centers, heritage recorders can encourage good dialogue and knowledge transfer. The RecorDIM Initiative partners represent users and providers who are interested in adapting existing hardware and software to the needs of conservation practices (e.g., low-cost and user-friendly photogrammetric systems, portable 3D laser scanners).
  1. Other tools required
    - Tools to enable cost-benefit analysis
    - Case studies
    - Economic models
    - Tools for estimating, procuring and tendering

5- To make available training and learning programs in recording and documentation

  1. By offering courses, seminars, workshops, etc. through:
    - CIPA
    - ICOMOS
    - ICCROM
    - National conservation organizations
    - Universities
    - Other groups and organizations

    Although a growing number information users are requesting training in heritage recording, documentation and information management, there are few courses that offer such training. This keeps many users from benefiting from the many available tools.
  1. By establishing certification and accreditation
    Proper heritage recording and documentation certification or accreditation does not currently exist. Some type of accreditation would certainly create greater interest in this type of training and would give more credibility to the activities of heritage recording, documentation and information management. This could occur at both graduate and mid-career level.

  2. By educating providers
    Consideration should be given to extending the education of heritage information providers beyond the technical requirements to provide a better understanding of the non-quantitative value of cultural heritage – the sense of place, people, landscapes, quality.


Robin Letellier, Coordinator for the RecorDIM Initiative

To tackle these gaps and needs, the RecorDIM founding partners, ICOMOS, CIPA Heritage Documentation and the GCI have offered to create Task Groups. These are lead by a “Liaison Officer” and are made up of representatives from the “users” and from the “providers” of documentation. The founding partners then invited other institutions and individuals throughout the world to also create Task Groups. More than twenty Task Groups have thus far been created and more are underway. The process to create a Task Group is relatively simple and is explained on the RecorDIM web site at:

Once a Task Group is created, the supporting institution becomes a partner in the Initiative and its Liaison Officer is invited to meet once a year with the others to discuss progress, issues and international collaboration to meet the Task Group’s goals. This type of international collaboration has been called “A Goodwill Alliance” by some of the participants.

During the AIC conference in Minneapolis, some of the Task Groups were described as examples of on-going activities:

Task Group: Training: Metric Survey Skills in Conservation


Sarah Lunnon, of English Heritage, is chairing this Task Group

( Referring to the list of Gaps identified above, this Task Group is addressing the following






1.f - involving the private sector

4.b - developing low-cost recording software

5.a - providing RecorDIM training that is required in many countries

5.c - educating providers

Target Audience

Heritage Recorders and conservation professionals interested in RecorDIM activities.

Purpose and Objectives

Concentrating on the area of Heritage Recording the Task Group proposes to produce handbooks, which can be used to develop training and learning programs on the uses and application of metric survey to historic buildings.

The aim is to provide effective understanding of the processes and techniques involved in the application of metric survey to historic buildings. This will be achieved by targeting information users and Information suppliers by providing: specifications, course documentation and handbooks.

Task Group Meeting

This Task Group met in York, UK , during 2004 to discuss and define the contents of the handbooks they should be publishing by the end of 2006. The handbook will cover key concepts of metric surveys, and the selection and application of metric survey techniques. The target audience is conservation practitioners and students.


A set of RecorDIM handbooks and specifications that relate to:

  • the majority of metric survey techniques currently used in the survey historic buildings
  • the selection and application of appropriate survey techniques
  • CAD as the data capture, modeling and presentation environment
  • issues to be addressed prior to commissioning a survey from a survey contractor
  • recent technical developments in this field of conservation

The handbooks will form a suite documents which includes:

  • The English Heritage Specification for Metric survey
  • Measured and Drawn (the application of measured survey techniques)

For additional information on this Task Group’s plan of action, see its web page at:

Task Group:  RecorDIM Information Warehouse

Andrew Powter, of Heritage Conservation Directorate of PWGSC (for Parks Canada), is chairing this Task Group activity ( Referring to the list of Gaps identified above, this Task Group is addressing the following







1a – encouraging and coordinating RecorDIM information sharing and dissemination.  

Target Audience

Conservation professionals at large and officers responsible for RecorDIM policy, standards, guidelines and practices.

Purpose and Objectives

The purpose of this Information Warehouse is to provide those interested in creating RecorDIM Task Groups with knowledge of existing documents and web pages that are relevant to RecorDIM principles, practices, tools and technologies.

The main objectives are:

  • To provide conservation specialists worldwide with a ‘one-stop web site’ for information on RecorDIM activities;
  • To collect as much information as possible, for Conservation Organizations that wish to create a RecorDIM Task Group, or develop RecorDIM practices in their country;
  • To provide, on a regular basis, new information on RecorDIM practices, tools and technologies.



This Task Group produces an open-ended collection of focused and peer-reviewed web links that are available on the RecorDIM web site to provide readers with information relevant to the above listed RecorDIM topics. This interactive collection of information will grow with the interest, motivation, and generosity of those sharing and using RecorDIM related data.

(For additional information on this Task Group’s plan of action and deliverables, see its web page at:

Task Group: Principles & Guidelines and Handbook Publications

François LeBlanc, of the Getty Conservation Institute, is chairing this Task Group activity (TUfleblanc@getty.eduTH). Referring to the list of Gaps identified above, this Task Group is addressing the following








2.b - referring to integrated conservation processes where RecorDIM plays a central role and responsibility

4.a.2 and .3 - providing principles and guidelines for managers and decision-makers and handbooks

Target Audience

Heritage policy makers and heritage managers (Principles & Guidelines) and professionals in the field of conservation (Handbook).

Purpose and Objectives

The purpose of this Task Group is to fill the need for publications in these priority areas as identified by an international group of experts meeting in Los Angeles during March of 2002. Werner Schmid it the Technical Editor for the Principles & Guidelines publication. It will draw on a manuscript written by Robin Letellier several years ago and on the Principles for the recording of monuments, groups of buildings and sites adopted by the ICOMOS General Assembly in 1996. The publication will be enhanced with new sections, graphics and diagrams. Rand Eppich of the GCI is the Technical Editor for the Handbook. It will draw from already published articles and material. It will illustrate documentation tools through case studies in conservation, architecture, finishes & decorative surfaces, engineering, planning, landscapes, archaeology and cultural landscapes.  


Two soft cover publications of approximately 150 pages each. The dissemination plan at this time is to offer the publications free of charge to those who request it

(For additional information on this Task Group’s plan of action and deliverables, see its web page at: HTU

Task Group: Low-Cost Standards for Architectural Heritage Recording

Lazar Sumanov, of ICOMOS Macedonia, is chairing this Task Group activity ( Referring to the list of Gaps identified above, this Task Group is addressing the following








4.a.1developing recoding standards

3.apromoting the benefits of low-cost recording techniques


Target Audience

Conservation professionals and technologists interested in acquiring basic heritage recording knowledge and skills.

Purpose and Objectives

One of the main objectives of this Task Group is to prepare conservation experts and institutions for urgent completion of the Cultural Monuments Documentation File (in Macedonia ) by using modern low cost tools and technologies such as a GIS and rectified photography to collect, store and exchange data. This would be done by adopting appropriate methodologies and standard to provide essential information (written, technical and photographic) to satisfy the needs presented in the Task Group proposal at . This methodology and standards will have multipurpose possibilities (i.e. for maintenance and restoration. conservation program, urban planning, establishing monitoring short and long term programs, etc).


The output from this Task Group activity will be training sessions in Macedonia and the writing of low-cost recording, documentation and management standards for architectural cultural heritage at the national and regional levels.

For additional information on this Task Group’s plan of action and deliverables, see its web page

Task Group: Collecting, cataloging and sharing Heritage Stereo views


Walter Schuhr, of the University of Applied Science Magdeburg, Germany, is chairing this Task Group activity ( Referring to the list of Gaps identified above, this Task Group is addressing the following








1.a - information dissemination, 

1.f - involving the private sector and outside organizations, and

4.c - encouraging the development of software


Target Audience

Professionals of all trades, involved in conservation research, analysis of historic photographs and information sharing, and conservationists at large interested in collecting and using stereo-photographs.

Purpose and Objectives

One of the main purposes of this Task Group in to create alliances with those that collect high quality stereo images, and to make them available on the web to those involved in heritage conservation activities. Some of the objectives are:

  • to group the images by conservation related subjects
  • to design the web site to view the images using the web, and
  • to eventually provide low-cost software to extract metric information from the stereo images


The following image is an example of the stereo-pairs posted on this Task Group’s web site at: . They are meant to be viewed in stereo, by any conservation professional that purchases an amateur stereoscope, which costs approximately $10 USD. This site should soon be enhanced to allow low-level stereo-photogrammetric applications such as extracting measurements from the historic stereo views.


Using existing Heritage stereo views for, e.g. Relief enhancement: 

For additional information on this Task Group’s plan of action and deliverables, see its web page at:

Task Group:  Tabulation of task specific technologies for RecorDIM activities in India

Divay Gupta, of the India National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage, is chairing this Task Group activity (  Referring to the list of Gaps above, this Task Group is addressing the following








3.a - providing a matrix of low-cost recording tools and technologies

4.a.1 - writing tabulated guidelines for India information users to choose task specific tools

5.c - educating users of information

 Target Audience

Conservation professionals and technologists interested in acquiring knowledge and understanding of the most cost effective RecorDIM tools and technologies available.

Purpose and Objectives

  • To formulate a matrix regarding task specific possibilities of technologies for RecorDIM;
  • To integrate though the matrix, components related to Training, & Information Warehouse of the RecorDIM Initiative.


The proposal envisions not only a matrix of possibilities for RecorDIM techniques but also hopes to integrate the present initiatives into it.  The above study will be used to collect all possibilities available for RecorDIM and then analyze them for their effectiveness and efficiency.

The Task Group will produce an open-ended matrix with possibilities of techniques available for various RecorDIM tasks as well as link to the Info-Warehouse for its procurement.




& Constrains

Methods, Technologies & Equipments




Defining Task,






Link 2 Info Warehouse

Bench marks



Cost efficeincy




Time Frames



Training Requirements-











This will also identify training requirements for various users and providers for techniques which may be taken up later by other relevant RecorDIM Task Groups already created for the purpose.  It is proposed that such a matrix can become part of the proposed RecorDIM handbook being developed by the Getty Conservation Institute.

For additional information on this Task Group’s plan of action and deliverables, see its web page at:

Task Group: Rock-Art Science

Daniel Arsenault, from theInstitut du Patrimoine UQAM‘, is chairing this Task Group activity ( Referring to the list of Gaps identified above, this Task Group is addressing the following








4.a.1 - writing standards and protocols

4.c - tailoring hardware to specific needs

 Target Audience

Archaeologists and anthropologists interested in specifically designed recording protocols for the recording of rock art.

Purpose and Objectives

The intention of this Task Group is to fill some of the recording related gaps within the field of rock-art research, conservation and management at international level, and sharing and promoting its scientific endeavors and results worldwide.

Taking specific rock-art sites in different environmental contexts located in various countries (where our team members work) as testing ground, the TG will pursue the following main objectives:

  • Increasing knowledge of components used for producing the pigments for paintings;
  • Reconstructing the steps concerning the making of those rock-art images;
  • Applying new techniques for better recording of rock-art sites (including the microscopic scale).


Present results pertaining to new scientific protocols for analyzing and preserving rock-art sites acquired through meetings, conferences, round tables, but also scientific peer-review-journals. Present final results of this scientific protocol on the RecorDIM web site.

In early 2006, the TG will provide the RecorDIM web site with an outline of its findings. At the end of the project it will publish a guide describing a step-by-step state-of-the-art recording protocol for rock-art.

(For additional information on this Task Group’s plan of action and deliverables, see its web page at:

Task Group:  Technical Monitoring of Large Archaeological Sites

Peter Waldhausl, from the University of Technology of Vienna , is chairing this Task Group activity ( Referring to the list of Gaps identified above, this Task Group is addressing the following







1.a, b, d, f – to improve communications by creating international networks and by involving outside organizations

2. a, b - integrate monitoring into the management process

3. a, b, c – to increase resources

4.a.1 – to define, develop and promote tools by producing guidelines and practical examples for large archaeological sites, by developing heritage information systems, by developing “best practices and by recommending compatible methods

5. a, b, c, d – to undertake training  

Target Audience

Archaeologists and anthropologists interested in specifically designed recording protocols for the recording of large archaeological sites. 

Purpose and Objectives

The purpose of the development of guidelines and practical examples is:

-          to provide conservation specialists with an up to date source of information about the best suited technical tools, methods and systems for permanent monitoring;

-          to create an international network of specialists in permanent monitoring of the Western Anatolian excavation sites and their connecting cultural landscape;

-          to provide management staff and politicians in time with the necessary basic information for preservation of the cultural heritage as well as for further development of soft tourism and social welfare;

-          to contribute effectively to the management plans of archaeological World Heritage Sites, where periodic reporting is an essential and repeatedly arising problem due to the fact that the technical basic information is not sufficiently available or comparable.


  1. Technical guidelines for permanent monitoring of large archaeological sites (in general and with special consideration of each of the member-sites in Western Anatolia)
  2. Collection of prototypical and practical examples
  3. Network of archaeologists co-operating in Western Anatolia
  4. Concept for further development of Western Anatolia ’s cultural landscape with special consideration for cultural tourism and social aspects.