Art history researchers and educators will be empowered by the ability to do research via an art historical research environment that allows electronic transmission of digital images and texts. The urge in the art history community to develop this computer network creates a need to establish standards for the control of these images and their accompanying descriptive texts.
This paper is in the format of a memo to a visual resources library -- a slide library of an art history department. It raises issues to consider when preparing the bibliographic records of the visual resources collection. It recommends that libraries consult the Art Information Task Force document Categories for the Description of Works of Art when creating the content of descriptive records for document identification purposes. It also reports on the creation of standards for the description of art works and explains the benefits of standardization in the visual resources collection. It recommends that libraries consult the Art Information Task Force document Categories for the Description of Works of Art when creating the content of descriptive records for document identification purposes. It also reports on the creation of standards for the description of art works and explains the benefits of standardization.
This memo raises issues for the visual resources library to consider when preparing bibliographic records for its visual resources collection. It will recommend sources to consult when creating the content of descriptive records for document identification purposes. The memo doesn't intend to cover subject headings. It will report on the creation of standards for the description of art works, and it will explain the benefits of standardization.
Towards a standard method for describing art works
The art history community in the US, as represented by museums, universities and colleges, has been forming consortia to agree upon standards for the description of art information and for the development of art information systems that will link institutions. A network of art information providers will create a scholarly research environment that provides electronic access to art works, visual resources, and their accompanying descriptive texts.
I believe that, given the consensus of opinion in the field regarding the standardization of the description of art works, that our visual resources library should begin to consider the recommendations of these consortia, so that we may benefit from a network of art information providers in the future. We should adapt our cataloging process to the models prepared by consortia, but take a reactive role regarding new methods of automation. If we take measures in preparation for change, we will be in a position to accept any systems that conform to the standards set by the consortia.
The description of the pictorial image
The concept of transcribing data from pictorial images into the format of a bibliographic record is very different from the same process used in cataloging monographs. The description of art works demands that a lot of supplementary information from secondary sources be provided so that the catalog user can identify and access works. The following description illustrates problems in describing pictorial images.
Original and historical graphic materials ... have little or no text to transcribe. The major reason for documenting graphics is to provide the researcher with as complete an identification of the material as possible. This is done by translating the visual information into a verbal description of the material's physical nature and image content. Authenticating the material and making attributions of responsibility are also activities in documenting graphics. Information must be extracted, interpreted, and extrapolated from the visual content and context of the material, as well as from secondary sources (Betz 4).
I have chosen the Art Information Task Force (AITF) document Categories for the Description of Works of Art (CDWA) as the standard by which we should derive the descriptive content of our bibliographic records. It is suitable because it meets three important criteria for the creation of standards. It provides "1) a unified structure, 2) a statement of minimum expectations, and 3) guidelines to determine when absolute uniformity in execution is essential and when it is not" (Hagler 137). As such, it is only a framework for describing pictorial images, it is not a guide for cataloging -- for the latter we must rely on AACR2R and the manual Graphic Materials.
The CDWA document "1) define[s] the scholarly information that should be included in descriptions of works of art which are shared among institutions and researchers [and] 2) identif[ies] appropriate common terminologies and descriptive practices that will make access to art information easier" ("Introduction" par. 6-7). "This document is intended to be a statement of research needs of scholars, prepared by researchers themselves and by those who provide information to researchers" (par. 55).
The following description clarifies the scope of the CDWA regarding the bibliographic record:
The AITF Categories and their respective subcategories are a statement of the intellectual content of a description of a work of art; they describe the information that could be found in a paragraph or sentence in an art-historical text. They do not represent database fields or database structures for managing art information.
When an institution decides to build an implementation based on the Categories, it will need to determine how to structure the data and what level of specificity best suits its needs. This will depend to a great extent on the source material for the descriptive information to be contained in the database (par. 84-85).
CDWA formats the descriptive art information as text files. We endeavor to create the content of records based on the core terms derived using the CDWA model so that the records may be available for input into a retrieval system based on the recommendations of Art History Consortia in the future.
The rules for creating bibliographic records for pictorial images may apply to "single two-dimensional pictorial works that are original. Single photographic copies and photomechanical reproductions [such as slides and digital images] may be included as well" (Betz, 8). The CDWA focuses specifically on "Ômovable' objects and their images" ("Introduction" par. 56) and indicates that their guidelines can also serve as a model for the built environment and architecture.
The CDWA divides the "categories" for describing pictorial images into the following areas or tasks: object/work, classification, orientation/arrangement, titles or names, state, edition, measurements, materials and techniques, facture, physical description, inscriptions/marks, condition/examination history, conservation/treatment history, creation, ownership/collecting history, copyright/restrictions, styles/periods/groups/movements, subject matter, context, exhibition/loan history, related works, related visual documentation, related textual references, critical responses, cataloging history and current location. The "categories" which represent the minimum of information needed are indicated as "core" elements. Each category is further subdivided into subcategories, and the document defines each category and subcategory, presenting a "discussion of the art-historical importance of the information, including its purpose to the researcher, its nature or characteristics, and possible sources for the information" ("Template" par 2).
It may not be necessary, for our research purposes, to do full records that consider all of the categories of the CDWA. It may be in our best interest to only record those core areas that are the recommended requirements, and insert information as needed into the note fields.
Preparing the descriptive record in the MARC format
The CDWA is the most current and widely agreed upon document to propose standards in the recording of art information. It represents a consensus of opinion regarding what information is most sought after when accessing images. It is recommended, therefore, that catalogers understand the general guidelines of this document when considering the types of information to include in the bibliographic record, and the sources to consult when choosing terms of description.
We may choose to translate the core information derived in the categories and subcategories as directed by CDWA into the MARC format or we may simply record this information in text files as mentioned above. AACR2R and the MARC format are two guides that are "practicable in Ôgeneral libraries of all sizes and types' while still leading to the formulation of compatible records" (Hagler 137). Transcribing as much of this information into the USMARC format as illustrated by AACR2R, supplemented by Graphic Materials will allow different database management systems to process the information similarly.
A museum computer network
Much of the measures I recommend are in preparation for the integration of our data into a scholarly network for museums and art history professionals. "Institutions must ... be able to share information about documents they own, and at times share the documents themselves. This can be done efficiently only through the acceptance of compatible systems for describing and listing documents of all kinds" (Hagler 6).
A reliable system for the transfer of digital images may be imminent with the implementation of site-licensing frameworks for intellectual property. The benefits of such a network will be tremendous. The "distributing of digital images over communications networks [will remove] physical barriers to the enjoyment of cultural heritage collections, making them available to wider audiences, and bringing those who might never enter a museum into contact with their past and present" (Trant 19). Art history researchers and educators will be empowered by the ability to conduct a greater amount of work from their institution via the electronic transmission of digital images and digital texts in an electronic, art historical research environment.
Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, 2d ed., rev. Chicago: American Library Association, 1988.
Art Information Task Force, The Getty Information Institute. "Introduction", Categories for the Description of Works of Art. (1996): n. pag. Online. Internet. Available: http://www.ahip.getty.edu/gii/cdwa/INTRO.HTM
Art Information Task Force, The Getty Information Institute. "Categories Template", Categories for the Description of Works of Art. (1996): n. pag. Online. Internet. Available: http://www.ahip.getty.edu/gii/cdwa/TEMPLATE.HTM
Betz, Elisabeth W. Graphic Materials: rules for describing original items and historical collections. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1982.
Crawford, Walt. MARC for Library Use, Second Edition: Understanding Integrated USMARC. Boston, MA: GK Hall, 1989.
Hagler, Ronald. The Bibliographic Record and Information Technology,2d ed. Chicago: American Library Association, 1991.
Trant, Jennifer. "The Museum Educational Site Licensing (MESL) Project". Spectra Winter 1994-95. 19-21.
Annotated Bibliography of sources for developing descriptive cataloging records
Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, 2d ed., rev. Chicago: American Library Association, 1988. -- Supplements the CDWA. Follow general guidelines for creating USMARC records, supplemented by the manual Graphic Materials.
Art Information Task Force, Getty Information Institute. Categories for the Description of Works of Art. (1996): n. pag. Online. Internet. Available: http://www.ahip.getty.edu/gii/cdwa/ -- This should be the main source to consult when creating the content of the catalog record.
Betz, Elisabeth, W. Graphic Materials, -- An extension of AACR2R for collections with pictorial items.
Library of Congress. Thesaurus for Graphic Materials. rev ed. of 2 works. compiled by Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress Cataloging Distribution Service, 1995.
Art Information Task Force, Getty Information Institute. "Bibliography of Controlled Vocabulary Sources", Categories for the Description of Works of Art. (1996): n. pag. Online. Internet. Available: http://www.ahip.getty.edu/gii/cdwa/FULLBIB.HTM -- This document is a full bibliography of sources for deriving terms for the creation of a controlled vocabulary list. The sources cover all of the areas which concern the cataloger of visual resources in art history.
Annotated Bibliography of Related Task Forces
Art Information Task Force, Getty Information Institute. Online. Internet. Available: http://www.ahip.getty.edu/gii/ -- The AITF produced the CDWA and related materials in conjunction with the Getty Information Institute.
Consortium for the Computer Interchange of Museum Information (CIMI). Standards Framework for the Computer Interchange of Museum Information. Online. Internet. Available: http://www.cimi.org/cimi/ -- The Museum Computer Network Project is "a guideline for museums engaged in systems planning, acquisition and implementation; for software developers and network service providers designing museum applications; and for the profession as a strategy for the preservation of museum data and as insurance in a rapidly changing information environment". CIMI also works with the AITF in the creation of a Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML) Document Type Definition (DTD) for the AITF Categories.
5 December 1996