The Documentation Centre was created in 1965 when the statutes of the organization provided for the establishment of an International Documentation Centre on the conservation and restoration of architectural heritage. This was done at the initiative of UNESCO.
In 1966, the Brussels Symposium was held with the purpose of defining the aims, structure, and objectives of the ICOMOS Documentation Centre, which are also described in the Statutes: "to gather, study and disseminate information concerning principles, techniques and policies for the conservation, protection, rehabilitation and enhancement of monuments, groups of buildings and sites". (Art. 5b)
The Centre was inaugurated in 1974 and became operational in 1977, when ICOMOS hired a documentalist and an assistant to organise and manage it.
In 1982, the Centre is computerised and a bibliographical database devoted to cultural heritage - ICOMMOS - is created. The Documetation Centre is part of the UNESCO-ICOM-ICOMOS network; it is linked to the central computer at UNESCO by a special line where all the bibliographical information accessible from the computer terminals placed in the different centres is stored.
In 1986, ICOMOS became a partner in the international Conservation Information Network (CIN) created by the Getty Conservation Institute. The ICOMOS Documentation Centre has since then participated in BCIN, the bibliographical database of the CIN, managed by the Canadian Conservation Institute. This database contains over 150,000 citations, including the combined holdings of the libraries and documentation centres of the contributing institutions (ICCROM, CCI, GCI, ICOM, ICOMOS, National Archives of Canada, SCMRE).
In 1990, the Documentation Centre launched a programme of selective information dissemination via computer diskette, with the goal of facilitating the access to bibliographical information managed by ICOMOS.
In 1998, UNESCO changed its computer systems, and so the bibliographical database had to be transferred from their mainframe system to ICOMOS's in-house IT system.
Since June 2002, the database can be searched on the internet at http://databases.unesco.org/icomos. It is also available on the Conservation Information Network (CIN) web site (http://www.bcin.ca), of which ICOMOS is a partner.
One documentalist is in charge of the Documentation Centre, who is occasionally helped by documentation interns.