Vocabulary (Data Value Standards)

Introduction to Vocabulary and Classification

Vocabulary standards (such as authority files and thesauri) and classification systems can assist in both cataloguing and retrieval of museum collections. They may be used to:

  • help a cataloguer find precisely the right term to describe an object
  • ensure consistent use of terminology and categories in cataloguing
  • link a museum's collections data with rich authoritative sources
  • provide context for terminology used in museum records (e.g. relationships to broader, narrower, or related terms)
  • make automated or manual retrieval of records more efficient.

There are hundreds of data value standards available, varying in scope from the general to the very specific. Museums will need to select vocabulary standards and classification systems that are appropriate for the scope and discipline of their collections.

Classification Systems

Classification systems provide ways to separate concepts into relatively broad topics – for example, "Furnishings" or "Communication Artifacts". Many classification systems also include specific terminology to be used (for example, object names such as "chair" or "poem"), so vocabulary standards and classification systems often work together.

Vocabulary Standards

For many data fields, especially those most commonly used for searching the data, strict application of a vocabulary standard within your museum's collections database will greatly improve your ability to query the data, ensuring a complete and relevant search result. This is important within individual collections databases, but it becomes even more important in collaborative projects, such as when museums share their data in Artefacts Canada.

Vocabulary Standards include authority lists and thesauri. Sometimes vocabulary lists are included as part of classification systems (e.g. object names are situated within a classification system in Nomenclature and Parks Canada Classification).

  • Authority lists (also called authority files) are lists of terms that can be used by a museum to control the terms or variants that are used in their collections documentation. For example, a museum may use an authority list for artist names during data entry, in order to ensure that the name is spelled consistently, or to ensure that a certain version (such as married name) is consistently used. There may or may not be a "preferred" variant of the term, but all variants are linked in the authority list so that the term can be found. Some authorities include rich supplemental information (e.g. an artist name authority with information on the artist's dates, technique, biography).
  • Thesauri usually provide synonyms, broader and narrower terms, and "preferred" terms for concepts. Some thesauri also include scope notes to advise cataloguers of the precise meaning and usage of particular concepts found in the thesaurus. Thesauri may be used in a similar way as a search assistant - people can use the thesaurus to find the most effective search terminology for a particular concept.

Thesauri or authority lists that exist in electronic format can also be used as automated search assistants or tools for browsing the data in computer applications.

Authority lists and thesauri vary widely in their construction and presentation, but all types of vocabulary standards can potentially be used in automated or manual systems to ensure consistent, precise cataloguing and more efficient retrieval. Some of the vocabulary standards most commonly used in museums follow.

Some important vocabulary and classification systems for museums include:

Multi-Faceted Vocabularies

  • Art & Architecture Thesaurus (AAT)

    Created by the J.Paul Getty Trust, the AAT is a thesaurus of terms used in the cataloguing and indexing of art, architecture, artifactual, and archival materials. In addition to broader, narrower, and related terms, it contains cross references, alternative terms, French equivalent terms, UK English equivalent terms, source information, and history and scope notes in a thesaurus format. The AAT was developed from numerous existing terminologies, and includes the vocabulary from the Revised Nomenclature, which is widely used in Canadian museums. CHIN has contributed approximately 2600 French terms to the AAT; these are now visible within the AAT as French language equivalents for the most common terms. This bilingual version of the AAT is used to assist with searches in CHIN's Artefacts Canada:Humanities database. CHIN recommends the use of the AAT for museums with broad humanities collections. Terminology found within the AAT would be appropriate for use in multiple fields of the Artefacts Canada: Humanities database. The AAT includes some French terminology, but the database interface is available only in English.

    Go to "Art & Architecture Thesaurus (AAT)"

Object Classifications/Vocabularies (Humanities)

  • Parks Canada Descriptive and Visual Dictionary of Objects (Parks DVD)

    Parks Canada and CHIN have collaborated to create this Web version of the Parks Canada Descriptive and Visual Dictionary of Objects. The Descriptive and Visual Dictionary of Objects is a bilingual museum classification system and vocabulary standard used in Canada for humanities collections. It helps museums cataloguing collections to identify, name, and classify objects using definitions and illustrations. This classification system is based on an object's original function (the purpose for which the object was created). Museums can consult the Parks Canada Descriptive and Visual Dictionary of Objects online, navigating through the hierarchical classification structure, or searching for definitions of categories, classes or object terms. Images and descriptions of many terms are included.

    Go to "Parks Canada Descriptive and Visual Dictionary of Objects (Parks DVD) "

  • The Info-Muse classification system for ethnology, history and historical archaeology museums

    Based on the Parks Canada Classification System, which is itself based on Chenhall's Revised Nomenclature for Museum Cataloging. This system is the fruit of collaboration between Parks Canada, the Musée de la civilisation and the Société des musées québécois. The definitions of terms are drawn mainly from the Parks Canada Classification system. Like the Parks and Nomenclature systems, the Info-Muse classification groups objects by their original function. Hierarchical organization is by Category and Sub-Category. This classification system is appropriate for use in the Category and Class fields of Artefacts Canada: Humanities database. Available in English and French.

    Go to "The Info-Muse classification system for ethnology, history and historical archaeology museums"

  • The Info-Muse classification system for fine arts and decorative arts museums

    Based on the Art & Architecture Thesaurus (AAT), and research by Thérèse Labbé. Representatives from a broad range of museums and associations also contributed to the development of this work. The two subdivisions of the AAT's "Art" subgroup, namely "Fine Arts" and "Decorative Arts," correspond to the categories in the Info-Muse classification system. This classification system is appropriate for use in the Category and Class fields of Artefacts Canada: Humanities database. Available in English and French.

    Go to "The Info-Muse classification system for fine arts and decorative arts museums"

  • Nomenclature 4.0 for Museum Cataloging. Fourth Edition of Robert G. Chenhall's System for Classifying Cultural Objects

    Nomenclature 4.0 is a function-based classification system and vocabulary for cultural objects in museum collections. Many Canadian museums use Nomenclature to assist with vocabulary control for object naming and classification (e.g. CHIN fields Object Name, Category, etc.). Nomenclature is the basis for the Parks Canada Classification System, as well as the Objects Facet of the Getty's Art & Architecture Thesaurus and the Info-Muse Classification System for ethnology, history, and historical archaeology museums. CHIN and Parks Canada representatives were part of the Nomenclature Task Force responsible for the publication of Nomenclature 4.0. More user friendly and better designed than its predecessors, this fourth edition is available in print, in English only.

    Go to "Nomenclature 4.0 for Museum Cataloging. Fourth Edition of Robert G. Chenhall's System for Classifying Cultural Objects"

  • Adopting a Classification System for Collections of Cultural Objects: A Comparison of Nomenclature 4.0 and the Parks Canada Classification System

    Museums in Canada that are documenting their historical collections in English generally use either Nomenclature, or the Parks Canada Classification System. This paper will provide an overview and comparison of these two North American standards, and guide museums in their choice.

    Go to "Adopting a Classification System for Collections of Cultural Objects: A Comparison of Nomenclature 4.0 and the Parks Canada Classification System"

  • Art & Architecture Thesaurus (AAT) Objects Facet

    Created by the J.Paul Getty Trust, the Art and Architecture Thesauraus (AAT) is a thesaurus of terms used in the cataloguing and indexing of art, architecture, artifactual, and archival materials. The Objects Facet of the AAT is based on terminology from Revised Nomenclature, which is widely used in Canadian museums. The Objects Facet contains terminology for "tangible or visual things that are inanimate and produced by human endeavor", arranged according to the "item's original purpose or origin or its primary context of development". CHIN recommends the use of the AAT for museums with broad humanities collections. The terminology found in the AAT Objects Facet is appropriate for use in the Object Name and Object Type fields of Artefacts Canada: Humanities database.

    Go to "Art & Architecture Thesaurus (AAT) Objects Facet"

  • Cultural Objects Name Authority (CONA)

    The Cultural Objects Name Authority (CONA) is a product of the J. Paul Getty Trust. CONA contains titles, current location, and other core information for cultural works. The scope of CONA includes architecture and movable works such as paintings, sculpture, prints, drawings, manuscripts, photographs, ceramics, textiles, furniture, and archaeological artifacts. As with the other Getty vocabularies, the primary focus is on art, architecture, and archaeology. CONA includes works from all over the world and from prehistory to the present. Names of works may be current or historical, and in multiple languages. CONA does not include records for natural history specimens or scientific collections, unless they exhibit fine craftsmanship of the type collected by art museums. CONA does not include names of musical or literary works. Like the other Getty vocabularies, CONA has a thesaural structure. CONA records contain enough information so that users can uniquely identify each object, differentiating each object for other similar or related works. The data entry rules for a CONA record comply with Cataloguing Cultural Objects (CCO). Like the other Getty vocabularies, CONA grows through contributions of the user community, and contributors are credited. CONA is a multilingual resource, but the interface is available in English only.

    Go to "Cultural Objects Name Authority (CONA)"

  • Religious Objects - User's Guide and Terminology

    CHIN collaborated with the Direction des Musées de France and Réunion des Musées Nationaux to produce this work under the Canada-France Accord. This publication includes an illustrated guide for data entry, and a hierarchical terminology (English and French) of more than 300 standard terms for Catholic religious objects and furnishings, and liturgical vestments and linens. A second project, a collaboration between CHIN, the Getty Information Institute, the French Ministry of Culture, and the Italian Central Institute for Cataloguing and Documentation, has resulted in the development of a multilingual (English, French, and Italian) lexicon of religious object names. The multilingual lexicon in entitled, “Religious Objects of the Catholic Faith/Objets religieux du culte catholique/Corredo ecclesiastico di culto cattolico.”

    Go to "Religious Objects - User's Guide and Terminology"

  • Vocabulary of Basic Terms for Cataloguing Costume

    This classification system and vocabulary for costume was developed by the International Council of Museums (ICOM) Costume Committee. It is multilingual (English, French, and German). Garments are classified according to their relation to the human body (e.g. layers of dress: main garments; outerwear; protective wear; underwear; etc.) Includes both a classification system and object naming terminology, as well as illustrations to identify various costume elements.

    Go to "Vocabulary of Basic Terms for Cataloguing Costume"

  • British Museum Object Names Thesaurus

    Originally created as an internal reference tool for the British Museum collection, this on-line thesaurus of object names contains hierarchical and other standard thesaural relationships and follows ISO 2788 standard for thesaurus construction. Available in English only.

    Go to "British Museum Object Names Thesaurus"

  • Liste des dénominations, Direction des musées de France

    Two-level, alphabetical list of object names, used within the Joconde database of the Direction des musées de France. Available in French only. RTF: http://www.culture.gouv.fr/documentation/joconde/fr/partenaires/AIDEMUSEES/telechargement.htm

    Go to "Liste des dénominations, Direction des musées de France"

  • Thesaurus for Graphic Materials II: Genre and Physical Characteristic Terms (TGM II)

    TGM II was created by the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division as a companion to TGM I. It provides headings for categories of material - by genre (portraits, etc.), by vantage point, method of representation, production technique or version, marking, shape or size, intended purpose, characteristics of the image's creator, or publication status. Terms denoting artistic movements and styles are not included. “The Thesaurus for Graphic Materials is a tool for indexing visual materials by subject and genre/format. The thesaurus includes more than 7,000 subject terms to index topic shown or reflected in pictures, and 650 genre/format terms to index types of photographs, prints, design drawings, ephemera and other categories." TGM II terms are applicable to two-dimensional, chiefly pictorial, graphic materials (among them, prints, photographs, drawings, and ephemera) whether they are part of a book, or in a manuscript, graphic, or other collection. They are applicable to some non-pictorial and three-dimensional material commonly found in graphic collections, such as visiting cards and photograph cases. They are appropriate for materials commonly found in general graphic collections of research libraries and historical societies. (There are more terms for photographs and historical prints than for fine prints, drawings, and paintings. There are few terms for educational audiovisual materials.) Available in English only.

    Go to "Thesaurus for Graphic Materials II: Genre and Physical Characteristic Terms (TGM II)"

  • MDA Archaeological Objects Thesaurus

    Names of archaeological objects (e.g. amulet; flask; tile) that can be recovered from archaeological fieldwork. Developed by the MDA Archaeological Objects Thesaurus Working Party between 1995 and 1997. The Thesaurus is intended "to establish guidance and common principles for the recording of object names within the archaeological profession and related disciplines". For the purposes of the Thesaurus, archaeological objects are be defined as: ""any physical evidence, usually portable, resulting from past human activity and human interaction with the environment, or environmental remains, that can be recovered through archaeological fieldwork". The thesaurus includes 2,204 terms, derived from the simple object name and authority lists submitted by members of the Working Party, together with the Object Class derived from the RCHME/English Heritage Thesaurus of Monument Types. Follows ISO 2788 standard for Establishment and Development of Monolingual Thesauri. Available in English only.

    Go to "MDA Archaeological Objects Thesaurus"

  • MDA Railways Object Name Thesaurus

    Hierarchical vocabulary for naming railway objects. Includes vocabulary for: - Railway types (e.g. narrow gauge railway) - Commercial records and equipment (e.g timetable, waybill) - Infrastructure (e.g. spur line, tunnel) - Tools and equipment (eg. Rail ice scraper) - Vehicles and vehicle components (e.g. trains by function, power source, etc.) Includes alphabetical list and glossary. Available in English only.

    Go to "MDA Railways Object Name Thesaurus"

  • MDA Waterways Object Name Thesaurus

    Hierarchical vocabulary for describing objects which relate to inland waterways (canals and rivers but not coastal areas). Developed by a working group of the MDA for the inland waterways of the British Isles, but will have a broader application. Includes vocabulary for: - Components (e.g. oar, gaff, mast, bulkhead) - Craft Type (by function, construction, etc.) - Costume - Tools and Equipment - Containers Includes alphabetical list and glossary. Available in English only.

    Go to "MDA Waterways Object Name Thesaurus"

  • Archaeological and Built Heritage Thesauri - National Monuments Record

    A series of thesauri developed by the National Monuments Record in England, to be used in documentation of archaeological sites and built heritage. Includes thesauri for: Building Materials, Monument Types, Military and defensive sites, Archaeological components and evidence, and many others. Available in English only.

    Go to "Archaeological and Built Heritage Thesauri - National Monuments Record"

  • Outline of Cultural Materials (Murdock) - Human Relations Area Files

    The Outline of Cultural Materials by G.P. Murdock is an ethnological classification system "reflecting human behaviour, social life, customs, material products, and ecological settings". Allows multiple classification of single objects (by material, function, form, etc.), but does not provide object names for use within classification levels. The Outline of Cultural Materials is part of the culture and subject classification created and maintained by the Human Relations Area Files, Inc. (HRAF). This classification system may be useful for ethnology collections, and is appropriate for use in the Category and Class fields of Artefacts Canada: Humanities database. Available in English only.

    Go to "Outline of Cultural Materials (Murdock) - Human Relations Area Files"

  • Social History and Industrial Classification: A Subject Classification for Museum Collections (SHIC)

    Published by the SHIC Working Party of the UK's Museum Documentation Association (now Collections Trust), SHIC is the product of a collaboration between a number of UK museums to produce a subject classification for the field of social and industrial history. It is "designed to make links between a wide variety of museum material...according to the sphere of human activity with which they are primarily associated". The Social History and Industrial Classification provides a broad interdisciplinary structure with which to arrange objects, photographs, archival material, etc. within the field of human history. It includes both abstract concepts/general materials as well as more specific, concrete terms. SHIC is not widely used in North America. An online demonstration version is available, as well as a full print version. Available in English only.

    Go to "Social History and Industrial Classification: A Subject Classification for Museum Collections (SHIC)"

  • Historic Aircraft Type - National Monuments Record

    Created for the National Monuments Record by English Heritage, this indexing tool aids the recording of aircraft remains and crash sites, listing aircraft types by form, function and manufacturer. Hierarchical thesaurus of watercraft types (e.g. canoe, tug, trawler, schooner, etc.) Includes alphabetical index. Available in English only.

    Go to "Historic Aircraft Type - National Monuments Record"

  • Maritime Craft Type - National Monuments Record

    Created for the National Monuments Record by English Heritage, this hierarchical thesaurus contains terminology for watercraft types (e.g. canoe, tug, trawler, schooner, etc.) Includes alphabetical index. Available in English only.

    Go to "Maritime Craft Type - National Monuments Record"

  • DOCAM Glossaurus

    The DOCAM Glossaurus is a bilingual glossary of terms used in documentation, preservation, technologies, and practices used with new media art. The glossary is arranged as a facetted thesaurus; the five main facets include: Activities, Agents, Art Practices, Components, and Manifestation & Reception. Available in English and French.

    Go to "DOCAM Glossaurus"

  • DOCAM Technological Timeline

    The DOCAM Technological Timeline "is designed to show, in clear and graphic form, the ways in which art history and the history of technological invention run alongside each other". Although it is not an exhaustive history of technology used to produce artworks, it illustrates the "complex relationship between the history of technology and the development of media-based art forms". Although the timeline itself is available only in English, presentations about the timeline are available in English (http://www.docam.ca/en/technological-timeline.html) and in French (http://www.docam.ca/fr/timeline-des-technologies.html).

    Go to "DOCAM Technological Timeline"

  • Les systèmes de classification du Réseau Info-Muse : pourquoi et comment les utiliser ? - Capsule documentaire no 3

    This document offers guidelines for selecting a classification system. Available in French only.

    Go to "Les systèmes de classification du Réseau Info-Muse : pourquoi et comment les utiliser ? - Capsule documentaire no 3 "

Subject Classification/Vocabulary (Humanities)

  • Domaines, Direction des musées de France

    La Direction des musées de France has created a list of « Domaines », used in their collections database, Joconde. Hierarchical list of domains (or fields of study) by type of material (e.g. photographie, métallurgie), by function (e.g. vie militaire, architecture), by chronology, civilization, or geography (e.g. âge du fer, mérovingien, Europe), and by discipline (e.g. anthropologie, beaux-arts). Available in French only. RTF: http://www.culture.gouv.fr/documentation/joconde/fr/partenaires/AIDEMUSEES/telechargement.htm

    Go to "Domaines, Direction des musées de France"

  • Thesaurus of Graphic Materials I: Subject Terms (TGM I)

    TGM I was created by the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division to support both cataloguing and retrieval needs. It is used for subject indexing of graphical materials, including historical photographs, architectural drawings, artwork, etc. Includes a controlled vocabulary for describing "a broad range of subjects depicted in such materials, including activities, objects, types of people, events, and places". Proper names of people, organizations, events, and geographic places are not included. Available in English only.

    Go to "Thesaurus of Graphic Materials I: Subject Terms (TGM I)"

  • ICONCLASS

    Iconclass is a subject-specific classification system; it is a hierarchically ordered collection of definitions of objects, persons, events and abstract ideas that can be the subject of an image. Museums can use Iconclass for iconographic research and the documentation of images (Description taken from the website). Consists of a classification system (approximately 28,000 definitions), an alphabetical index, and a bibliography with 40,000 references to books and articles of iconographical and cultural historical interest. Available in English only.

    Go to "ICONCLASS"

  • Liste des sujets représentés (à partir du Thésaurus iconographique Garnier), Direction des musées de France

    Comprehensive thesaurus for controlled headings for subjects represented in works of art. Includes divisions for themes, nature, body and material life, psychological and moral life, society and social life, political and administrative life, armament and military life, agriculture and hunting/fishing, industry and commerce, transport and communication, intellectual and scientific life, arts, religious life, imagination, ornament, geographic subjects, biblical, Buddhist, and Taoist subjects, mythological subjects, groups (e.g. national, cultural), period, and fictional characters. Members of the CHIN Standards Working group on the "subject/image" field have expressed their continuing satisfaction with the performance of the Garnier iconographic thesaurus, on which this version is based. Available in French only. RTF: http://www.culture.gouv.fr/documentation/joconde/fr/partenaires/AIDEMUSEES/telechargement.htm

    Go to "Liste des sujets représentés (à partir du Thésaurus iconographique Garnier), Direction des musées de France"

Artist Names Authority

  • Union List of Artist Names (ULAN)

    Created by the J. Paul Getty Trust, the ULAN is a structured vocabulary that "includes proper names and associated information about artists. Artists may be either individuals (persons) or groups of individuals working together (corporate bodies). Artists in the ULAN generally represent creators involved in the conception or production of visual arts and architecture". The coverage of the ULAN is from Antiquity to the present, and it has a global scope. ULAN includes names, relationships, locations (for birth, death, and activity), important dates, and notes. The ULAN can include the vernacular, English, other languages, natural order, inverted order, or nicknames. There is no ""preferred" name identified in the ULAN; instead, many variants of the name are provided. The artist names in ULAN are multilingual, but the database interface is available only in English.

    Go to "Union List of Artist Names (ULAN)"

  • Artists in Canada

    Artists in Canada, compiled and maintained by the National Gallery of Canada Library, is a bilingual union list that identifies the location of documentation files on Canadian artists. Libraries and art galleries across Canada have contributed biographical information and lists of their documentation files to create this resource which contains information for more than 55,000 artists. Each record includes: biographical information on the artist, artist technique, name variants, and file location. Available in English and French.

    Go to "Artists in Canada"

  • Canadiana Authorities

    The Canadiana Authorities contain over 660,000 name, title and name/title authority records, representing standardized entries for Canadian authors/artists/creators or institutions. These authority records provide standardized access to personal names (such as artists and other creators), corporate body names and titles used in cataloguing by libraries and museums. Users can search the database by keyword, creator or institution name, or title.

    Go to "Canadiana Authorities"

  • Virtual International Authority File (VIAF)

    The Virtual International Authority File (VIAF) is a research project of OCLC which combines the name authority files of many libraries into a single name authority service. The stated goal of the project is to "facilitate research across languages anywhere in the world by making authorities truly international". To create the VIAF, software is used to match and link authority records for personal names. "Users in their respective countries will be able to view name records as established by the other nations, thus making the authorities truly international and facilitating research across languages anywhere in the world." VIAF now has 16 participating libraries, over 13 million personal name authority records and plans to expand by including corporate names and uniform titles. Library and Archives Canada is participating in the VIAF project, meaning that their personal name authority records are now included in VIAF. VIAF is multilingual, but the web interface is available in English only.

    Go to "Virtual International Authority File (VIAF)"

  • Library of Congress Authorities

    Authority headings for Subject, Name, Title and Name/Title combinations. Includes approximately 42 million subject and genre/form authority records, and 9.3 million name authority records (Description taken from the website). Available in English only.

    Go to "Library of Congress Authorities"

Creator Roles Classification/Vocabulary

  • Liste des rôles des auteurs /exécutants, Direction des musées de France

    Term list for creator roles - for example, sculpteur, calligraphe, graveur. Available in French only. RTF: http://www.culture.gouv.fr/documentation/joconde/fr/partenaires/AIDEMUSEES/telechargement.htm

    Go to "Liste des rôles des auteurs /exécutants, Direction des musées de France"

  • Art & Architecture Thesaurus (AAT) Agents Facet

    Created by the J.Paul Getty Trust, the AAT is a thesaurus of terms used in the cataloguing and indexing of art, architecture, artifactual, and archival materials. The Agents Facet of the AAT contains terminology for "designation of people, groups of people, and organizations identified by occupation or activity, by physical or mental characteristics, or by social role or condition." It also contains a hierarchy of terms to describe living organisms - "descriptors for plants and animals intended for cataloging art, architecture, and related disciplines", including scientific and common names. This hierarchy of the Agents facet does not duplicate scientific taxonomies: "it includes levels and records that are inappropriate for a scientific taxonomy but are necessary for the target audience of the AAT, which is the art and architectural history cataloging community." CHIN recommends the use of the AAT for museums with broad humanities collections. The terminology found in the AAT Agents Facet is appropriate for use in museum databases that record the Creator Role (e.g. painters, sculptors, etc.), as well as for Subject (describing the subject depicted in artworks).

    Go to "Art & Architecture Thesaurus (AAT) Agents Facet"

Place Names Classification/Authority

  • Thesaurus of Geographic Names (TGN)

    Created by the J. Paul Getty Trust, the TGN is a "structured vocabulary containing "names and associated information about places. Places in TGNinclude administrative political entities (e.g., cities, nations) and physical features (e.g., mountains, rivers). Current and historical places are included". Geographical coordinates are also included. The terms in the TGNare multilingual, but the database interface is available only in English.

    Go to "Thesaurus of Geographic Names (TGN)"

  • Référence bibliographique pour vos recherches toponymiques – Capsule documentaire no 2

    Published by La Société des musées québécois (SMQ), this guide recommends and explains the use of the Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names (TGN) within museums. Available in French only.

    Go to "Référence bibliographique pour vos recherches toponymiques – Capsule documentaire no 2"

  • Canadian Geographical Names Data Base (CGNDB)

    The Canadian Geographical Names Data Base (CGNDB) is maintained by Natural Resources Canada to store names for Canadian geographical features, including populated places, administrative areas, and water and terrain features (such as lakes, mountains). Museums may use the CGNDB to help with the consistent naming of Canadian geographical names in their collections databases. The CGNDB sometimes provides Canadian place names to a more detailed level than Thesaurus of Geographic Names (TGN); museums may wish to use it in parallel with TGN. Available online, in English and French.

    Go to "Canadian Geographical Names Data Base (CGNDB)"

  • Banque de noms de lieux du Québec

    The Banque de noms de lieux du Québec is updated monthly and provides accurate information on more than 255 500 names of places in Québec (Description taken from the website).

    Go to "Banque de noms de lieux du Québec"

  • Lieux géographiques de création, d'exécution et d'utilisation, Direction des musées de France

    Hierarchical terminology for place names to be used in documenting the creation and use of museum objects. Available in French only. RTF: http://www.culture.gouv.fr/documentation/joconde/fr/partenaires/AIDEMUSEES/telechargement.htm

    Go to "Lieux géographiques de création, d'exécution et d'utilisation, Direction des musées de France"

Time Periods, Styles, and Cultures Classification/Vocabulary

Materials and Techniques Vocabulary (Humanities)

  • British Museum Materials Thesaurus

    This thesaurus, developed by the British Museum based on the materials found in their collection, covers a very wide range of materials. It has three top-level terms: Organic, Inorganic, and Processed Material. Available in English only.

    Go to "British Museum Materials Thesaurus"

  • Vocabulaire Techniques - Matériaux, Direction des Musées de France

    Hierarchical vocabulary for techniques, arranged by the type of material associated with each technique. Available in French only. RTF: http://www.culture.gouv.fr/documentation/joconde/fr/partenaires/AIDEMUSEES/telechargement.htm

    Go to "Vocabulaire Techniques - Matériaux, Direction des Musées de France"

  • Définitions des techniques, médiums, matériaux et supports, Direction des Musées de France

    Glossary of terms for technique, medium, material, and support. Alphabetical list. Available in French only.

    Go to "Définitions des techniques, médiums, matériaux et supports, Direction des Musées de France"

  • Art & Architecture Thesaurus (AAT) Materials Facet

    Created by the J.Paul Getty Trust, the AAT is a thesaurus of terms used in the cataloguing and indexing of art, architecture, artifactual, and archival materials. The Materials Facet of the AAT contains terminology for "physical substances, whether naturally or synthetically derived. These range from specific materials to types of material designated by their function, such as "colorants", and from raw materials to those that have been formed or processed into products that are used in fabricating structures or objects". CHIN recommends the use of the AAT for museums with broad humanities collections. The terminology found in the AAT Materials Facet is appropriate for use in the Materials, Medium, and Support fields of the Artefacts Canada: Humanities database.

    Go to "Art & Architecture Thesaurus (AAT) Materials Facet"

  • Art & Architecture Thesaurus (AAT) Processes and Techniques Hierarchy

    Created by the J.Paul Getty Trust, the AAT is a thesaurus of terms used in the cataloguing and indexing of art, architecture, artifactual, and archival materials. The Processes and Techniques of the AAT contains terminology for "actions and methods performed physically on or with materials and objects, and for processes occurring in materials and objects." CHIN recommends the use of the AAT for museums with broad humanities collections. The terminology found in the AAT Processes and Techniques Hierarchy is appropriate for use in the Technique and Decorative Technique fields of the Artefacts Canada: Humanities database, as well as some Condition fields within museum collections management systems.

    Go to "Art & Architecture Thesaurus (AAT) Processes and Techniques Hierarchy"

  • Building Materials Thesaurus - National Monuments Record

    Thesaurus of construction materials for built heritage. Includes top-level terms: animal; earth mix; man made material; material <by form>; metal; mineral; stone; textile; vegetal. Available in English only.

    Go to "Building Materials Thesaurus - National Monuments Record"

Archaeology and Architecture Classification/Vocabulary

Species Classification/Vocabulary (Natural Sciences)

  • Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) - Taxon based biological information system

    ITIS is a database created by an international partnership of agencies and taxonomic specialists. ITIS provides information on species names and their hierarchical classification; it includes "documented taxonomic information of flora and fauna from both aquatic and terrestrial habitats". For each scientific name, ITIS includes "the authority (author and date), taxonomic rank, associated synonyms and vernacular names where available, a unique taxonomic serial number, data source information (publications, experts, etc.) and data quality indicators". Available in French and English.

    Go to "Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) - Taxon based biological information system"

Physical Attributes Classification/Vocabulary

  • Art & Architecture Thesaurus (AAT) Physical Attributes Facet

    Created by the J.Paul Getty Trust, the AAT is a thesaurus of terms used in the cataloguing and indexing of art, architecture, artifactual, and archival materials. The Physical Attributes Facet of the AAT contains terminology for aspects of artifacts and materials such as "size and shape, chemical properties of materials, qualities of texture and hardness, and features such as surface ornament and color." CHIN recommends the use of the AAT for museums with broad humanities collections. The terminology found in the AAT Physical Attributes Facet is appropriate for use in fields such as Decorative Motif, Decorative Element, and other physical description fields of the Artefacts Canada: Humanities database. The Physical Attributes Facet includes a hierarchy for Conditions and Effects which would be useful vocabulary control for Condition fields within museum collections management systems.

    Go to "Art & Architecture Thesaurus (AAT) Physical Attributes Facet"

  • DOCAM Glossaurus

    The DOCAM Glossaurus is a bilingual glossary of terms used in documentation, preservation, technologies, and practices used with new media art. The glossary is arranged as a facetted thesaurus; the five main facets include: Activities, Agents, Art Practices, Components, and Manifestation & Reception. Available in English and French.

    Go to "DOCAM Glossaurus"

Disciplines Vocabulary

  • Art & Architecture Thesaurus (AAT) Disciplines Hierarchy

    Created by the J.Paul Getty Trust, the AAT is a thesaurus of terms used in the cataloguing and indexing of art, architecture, artifactual, and archival materials. The AAT Disciplines Hierarchy (a section of the Activities Hierarchy) contains terminology for "branches of learning, areas of specialization, and professions and professional specialties." CHIN recommends the use of the AAT for museums with broad humanities collections. The terminology found in the AAT Disciplines Hierarchy is appropriate for use in the Discipline field of the Artefacts Canada: Humanities database.

    Go to "Art & Architecture Thesaurus (AAT) Disciplines Hierarchy"

  • CHIN Discipline Authority List proposed for the Humanities (2006)

    Derived from the Art & Architecture Thesaurus, this short list of 43 terms, providing broader terms, narrower terms, related terms, and scope notes, is appropriate for use in the Discipline field of the Artefacts Canada: Humanities database. Available in English and French.

    Go to CHIN Discipline Authority List proposed for the Humanities (2006)

Standards for Thesaurus Construction

Standards have been created to guide the development of monolingual and multilingual thesauri. Museums often create their own thesauri or adapt existing standards to their needs, and the use of thesaurus construction standards will guide this process. Thesauri that have been constructed following these standards are easier to share or to integrate with other thesauri.

The standards for creation of thesauri will provide some guidelines as to how the thesaurus should be structured, what kind of relationships should be included, how to identify preferred terms, etc. However, many thesauri do not follow all the rules of these standards for thesaurus construction, and are still effective tools for indexing and retrieving data.

  • Thesauri for Information Retrieval (ISO 25964-1:2011)

    ISO 25964-1:2011 gives recommendations for the development and maintenance of thesauri intended for information retrieval applications. It is applicable to vocabularies used for retrieving information about all types of information resources, irrespective of the media used (text, sound, still or moving image, physical object or multimedia) including knowledge bases and portals, bibliographic databases, text, museum or multimedia collections, and the items within them. ISO 25964-1:2011 also provides a data model and recommended format for the import and export of thesaurus data. ISO 25964-1:2011 is applicable to monolingual and multilingual thesauri (Description taken from the website).

    Go to "Thesauri for Information Retrieval (ISO 25964-1:2011)"

  • Thesaurus principles and practice

    A concise summary of the most important principles for museum use of thesauri. Describes best practice for creating or modifying thesauri. Available in English only

    Go to "Thesaurus principles and practice"

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 Canada.ca.

Report a problem or mistake on this page
Please select all that apply:

Thank you for your help!

You will not receive a reply. For enquiries, contact us.

Date modified: