General Information System for Cataloguing

SIGECThe Central Institute for Cataloguing and Documentation is institutionally responsible for the General Information System for Cataloguing, the SIGEC, the national system for the acquisition and integrated management of knowledge of Italian cultural heritage.

The system has been developed with the objective of optimising the processes connected to cataloguing of cultural heritage, This assures, thanks to specific procedures, the quality of data produced and its correspondence with the standards defined at a national level, and guarantees in such a way a uniformity of information, considered indispensable for correct usage and sharing.

The structure of SIGEC is of modular construction, with specific components for the management of different typologies of information – alphanumeric, multimedia, geographic - necessary for the identification of the different heritage and their correct documentation, in turn essential tools for the guardianship and security of the said heritage.

The functions defined in the System allow, by means of a complex system of relationships, for the integration in one unique context of all the cognitive data about heritage. They allow in such a way the re-composition of the original article of the cultural and environmental heritage which, due to the specific operational requirements linked to cataloguing, has been analyzed in a fractured manner, often on the basis of different administrations’ areas of competency.

The diffusion of SIGEC through the national organises the working process of cataloguing on three distinct levels:
  • The independent cataloguing units, which carry out the activities of research and acquisition (data-entry) of the cognitive data on the heritage;
  • The bodies in charge of cataloguing at the peripheral level, which manage the catalogued data sent by the cataloguers, verifying the completeness and the scientific correctness of the data, then send it to the ICCD;
  • The ICCD central system, the data recording and collection point; at this level, the processing and updating of the regulations, the vocabulary and the glossary for checking as well as the flow of information throughout the entire system are also managed.

The data which passes all scientific and formal checking procedures at the various operative levels, is then made available for public access by means of a specific module in SIGEC, the ‘Users lower system’, this guarantees a respect for the rights of intellectual property, privacy and the necessary measures for the security of heritage, in such a way as to satisfy the requirements of diverse users (generic or specialised).

Within the research framework coordinated by the ICCD to create the new Cataloguing System, one aspect of particular interest regards the definition of specific data-structures for the acquisition and management of geographical information regarding cultural heritage. In SIGEC, this structure is connected to GIS functions which allow us to identify the position of cultural heritage in the territory by means of geographical coordinates. This occurs at the same time as the compilation of the catalogue cards and the acquisition of the equipping documentation which completes and enriches the cards (with photographs, surveys, archive documents, bibliography, etc.).

The possibility of integrating the cataloguing data with the geographic information allows for a reading within a single framework of the relations which exist between the different typologies of heritage and to give evidence of the relations with the environmental and human elements. This offers, therefore, useful tools for a more informed management and valorisation of cultural “ resources” and of the territory in which it is distributed. In such a way, the knowledge acquired can be utilised for various needs: territorial planning, statistical analysis, research, teaching, tourism, easing cooperation between the various bodies active in the culture sector.

The project to diffuse SIGEC – in consideration of the reorganisation of the Ministry for cultural heritage and cultural activities between 2004 and 2005 has affected, in particular, the peripheral articulation of the Institute, identified in the regional Directorates for cultural heritage and landscape, the coordinating entity for the administrative management and guardianship of heritage at a regional level. This foresees, according to a strategy agreed with the superior Department for research, innovation and organisation, the evolution of SIGEC based on methodology – innovative in the configuration of information structuring – turning to the migration of applications to a web based setting.

The objective of this evolution of the System for Cataloguing is, firstly, to ensure for all those who work within the field of cultural heritage the availability of the necessary technical infrastructure and independently of the acquisition of specific hardware and software equipment in their headquarters.

Such is the necessity to diffuse and make available SIGEC as quickly as possible to the bodies responsible for cataloguing, that an integrated model of the cataloguing system has been formulated. The regional Directorates, in consideration of the role assumed in the administrative framework, are candidates for the encompassing within their structures the systems associated with the various Superintendents present in the territory.

Such organisation guarantees to all users the availability of centralised support structures, with the aim of freeing institutional activity from problematic connections to technological infrastructure (hardware, software, networks); it will provide, instead, the necessary technical-operational assistance, lightening the load at a central level.

The services offered by the SIGEC hubs installed at the regional Directorates will be usable by all the subjects showing their respective fields of competency, by means of a WEB interface. This will have two advantages:
  • A progressive and significant increase in information relating to the cataloguing on cards of cultural heritage, through a feed of controlled, standardized and presented information on a single centralised database (at regional level);
  • The possibility of sharing efficiently the catalogued information between all interested bodies, easing the work of managing heritage and programming conservation and guardianship projects.
However, the prospect of “constructing” a regional hub of the Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities has been considered with interest and attention. This could create the ideal place for meeting, comparing and exchanging with local and territorial public bodies (Regions, Provinces, Communes) and with other subjects – such as the CEI and Universities – which are involved in cataloguing activities. The SIGEC ‘web’ is, therefore, an essential tool in the process of harmonisation and integration of the various components of MIBAC. Thanks to this, it will be possible to make fundamental knowledge available for the management and valorisation of our cultural heritage.