As explained on the Getty site for the AAT, the Art & Architecture Thesaurus—along with the Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names (TGN), the Union List of Artist Names (ULAN), and the Cultural Objects Name Authority (CONA)— are “structured vocabularies that can be used to improve access to information about art, architecture, and material culture.”
The Art and Architecture Thesaurus and other vocabularies go beyond simple controlled vocabularies. The vocabularies, as stated on the Getty site, can be utilized in the following ways:
- For cataloging—may be used as data value standards at the point of documentation or cataloging, as a controlled vocabulary or authority files by preferred names/terms and synonyms for people, places, and things; also provides structure and classification schemes that can aid in documentation.
- For retrieval—may be used as search assistants in database retrieval systems; includes semantic networks that show links and paths between concepts, making retrieval more successful.
- As research tools—valuable because of the rich information and contextual knowledge that they contain.
The target audience for the Getty vocabularies could include museums, art libraries, archives, visual resource curators, researchers in art and art history, and information specialists who are dealing with the needs of these users, as well as students or the general public.
A characteristic of the AAT worth noting is that it contains generic terms but no iconographic subjects or proper names. The values are generic rather than specific. The example given in the description of the AAT: the generic term cathedral would be included, but the specific proper name Chartres Cathedral is out of scope. Also, the AAT is not comprehensive, but a compiled source, and grows with contributions.
More about the history, structure, and scope of the AAT can be found on the Getty site.
Next blog post: I hope to gain a better understanding of the concept “linked open data,” why the AAT and other Getty vocabularies are so anxious to be released as linked open data, and how this fits into the big picture of the mysterious “semantic web.”