Cataloguing rules (data content standards)

Data content standards (sometimes called cataloguing rules) provide rules for recording museum collections information. They can include information on punctuation, diacritics, rules for recording titles, names of people, places, and organizations, capitalization, date formats, etc. Consistent documentation, both within single databases and across multiple repositories, will increase access to the content by maximizing search results. Data content standards are also important in manual systems. The following content standards are especially relevant in the museum context.

  • Cataloguing Cultural Objects: A Guide to Describing Cultural Works and Their Images

    Cataloguing Cultural Objects (CCO) is a data content standard which is designed for cataloguing works of art, cultural artifacts and their visual surrogates (cataloguing original objects may require some additional, specialized guidelines). CCO helps control the choice of terms and defines order, syntax and form for data values for cataloguing cultural objects. It can be used in the development of in-house cataloguing rules. The primary emphasis of CCO is on descriptive metadata; it excludes administrative and technical metadata. Controlled vocabularies and thesauri are recommended. CCO is a "manual for describing, documenting, and cataloging cultural works and their visual surrogates. The primary focus of CCO is art and architecture, including but not limited to paintings, sculpture, prints, manuscripts, photographs, built works, installations and other visual media. CCO also covers many other types of cultural works, including archaeological sites, artifacts and functional objects from the realm of material culture." CHIN's CCO Assessment Working Group (one of CHIN's Standards Working Groups) completed a project in 2008 to assess the CCO for use in Canadian museums. After examining the implications of using CCO within their own institutions, developing a set of sample records and completing a test using CCO rules to catalogue a new collection, they have recommended CCO for use within Canadian museums with humanities collections. CHIN has enhanced the CHIN Humanities Data Dictionary with the addition of CCO rules. CCO is a project of the Visual Resources Association (VRA). Available in English only.

    Go to "Cataloguing Cultural Objects: A Guide to Describing Cultural Works and Their Images"

  • Resource Description and Access (RDA) and Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, Second Edition (AACRII)

    RDA (which succeeded the older AACRII) is a set of cataloguing rules used by libraries in most English-speaking countries and increasingly used throughout the world. Useful to museums in that it contains format standards for the names of people, places and corporate bodies, along with rules for capitalization, abbreviation and numerals. In general, museums will find the Cataloguing Cultural Objects (CCO) standard more suitable to their needs, but RDA will be of use to museums with bibliographic collections.

    Go to "Resource Description and Access (RDA) and Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, Second Edition (AACRII)"

  • Rules for Archival Description (RAD)

    RAD is the Canadian standard for archival description. It provides a set of rules which "aim to provide a consistent and common foundation for the description of archival material within fonds, based on traditional archival principles." It contains information on the units of information to be recorded about archival collections, as well as rules for consistent cataloguing of all types of material, at multiple levels (fonds, series, files and item levels). Item level rules are based on AACRII. Maintained by the Canadian Committee on Archival Description of the Canadian Council of Archives. Available in English and French.

    Go to "Rules for Archival Description (RAD)"

  • Les règles d'inscription des noms propres – Capsule documentaire no 4

    Developed by the Société des musées québécois (SMQ), this document offers guidelines for recording proper names (names of people and organizations). Available in French only.

    Go to "Les règles d'inscription des noms propres – Capsule documentaire no 4"

  • Documenting Missing and Uncertain Information – Documentation Tips no 7

    This tip sheet contains information on how to deal with uncertain or missing information when documenting museum collections. Available in French and English.

    Go to "Documenting Missing and Uncertain Information – Documentation Tips no 7" (PDF version, 38.3 KB)

Alternative format

CHIN Guide to Museum Standards (PDF, 544 KB)

Contact information for this web page

This resource was published by the Canadian Heritage Information Network (CHIN). For comments or questions regarding this content, please contact CHIN directly. To find other online resources for museum professionals, visit the CHIN homepage or the Museology and conservation topic page on

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