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OCLC Online Computer Library Center Subject access to cultural objects A review of challenges and opportunities Jonathan Furner Assistant Editor, DDC OCLC.

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Presentation on theme: "OCLC Online Computer Library Center Subject access to cultural objects A review of challenges and opportunities Jonathan Furner Assistant Editor, DDC OCLC."— Presentation transcript:

1 OCLC Online Computer Library Center Subject access to cultural objects A review of challenges and opportunities Jonathan Furner Assistant Editor, DDC OCLC ALA/ALCTS :: June 25, 2005

2 OCLC Online Computer Library Center Vase of Flowers Jan van Huysum (Dutch, ) 1722 oil on panel 79.4 x 60.9cm J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles, CA) ©2004 J. Paul Getty Trust

3 OCLC Online Computer Library Center Description: Still life of drooping flowers spilling onto a ledge, some decaying and being eaten by insects; represents the senses of sight and smell; the decay and broken stems symbolize the transient nature of life, youth, and beauty; the ledge pushed up to the picture plane resembles the ledge seen in posthumous portraits, thus symbolizing death. The crown of thorns flower at the top symbolizes the Passion of Christ. Subject--Description: still life; Pronkstilleven; botanical; flowers; crown of thorns plant; cyclamen; hyacinth; lilies; narcissus; peonies; primrose; tulips; roses; sweetpeas; violet; insects; caterpillar; birds nest; eggs; urn; ledge Subject--Interpretation: senses; smell; beauty; life; transience; Vanitas; Passion of Christ

4 OCLC Online Computer Library Center Untitled Rayograph (Light Patterns) Man Ray (American, , died in France) 1927 gelatin silver print x 29.97cm J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles, CA) ©2004 J. Paul Getty Trust

5 OCLC Online Computer Library Center Description: The objects used by Man Ray to create this image are not apparent; the rapid alternation of light and dark on the page stimulates the eye; the stippled spots of black interact with the texture of the paper to activate the surface of the print and suggest positive and negative space. Subject--Description: non- representational; light; light and dark; texture; spots Subject--Interpretation: positive and negative space

6 OCLC Online Computer Library Center Lincoln on the Battlefield of Antietam, Maryland, October 2, 1862 Alexander Gardner (American, ) 1862 albumen print 21.8 x 19.7cm J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles, CA) ©2004 J. Paul Getty Trust

7 OCLC Online Computer Library Center Description: President Abraham Lincoln on the Antietam battlefield, with Major Allan Pinkerton, chief of the Secret Service, and Major John McClernand. Subject--Description: portraits; history/legend; war; army camp; soldier; officer; president; tent; campstool; stovepipe hat Subject--Identification: Antietam Battlefield (Sharpsburg, Maryland); Battle of Antietam (American Civil War); Union army; Abraham Lincoln (American president, ); Allan Pinkerton (American Secret Service agent, detective, ); John McClernand (American Union General, )

8 OCLC Online Computer Library Center Cataloguing Cultural Objects as a tool for subject cataloguers Aims practical guidance for subject cataloguers, indexers intra- and inter-indexer consistency user–indexer consistency retrieval effectiveness

9 OCLC Online Computer Library Center Cataloguing Cultural Objects as a tool for subject cataloguers Challenges 1.what does subject mean? -- i.e., what kinds of property of works should be indexed? 2.what kinds of method should be used to determine the subject(s) of works, and to select terms that represent those subjects? 4.what kinds of control should be imposed on the lists of terms from which selection is made, and how should such authority control be implemented? 5.what metadata elements should be established for recording subject data?

10 OCLC Online Computer Library Center Cataloguing Cultural Objects as a tool for subject cataloguers Predecessors art-historical theories of iconography/iconology: Panofsky, van de Waal, van Straten information-scientific theories of subject indexing: Layne, Markey, Svenonius data value standards: AAT, TGM, ICONCLASS data structure standards: CDWA, VRA Core

11 OCLC Online Computer Library Center Challenges 1. Kinds of subject Subjects, objects, images, texts subjects: e.g., people, things, events, places, concepts objects (works) [in museums, archives]: e.g., artworks, buildings, artifacts, documents, collections descriptive cataloguing: what the objects are subject cataloguing: what subjects the objects are of / about

12 OCLC Online Computer Library Center Challenges 1. Kinds of subject, contd images [in visual resource collections]: visual representations of objects, e.g., photographs, slides, digital files descriptive cataloguing: what the images are; what objects the images are of subject cataloguing: what subjects the images are about texts [in libraries]: verbal representations of objects, e.g., books, journal articles descriptive cataloguing: what the texts are subject cataloguing: what objects the texts are about; what subjects the texts are about

13 OCLC Online Computer Library Center Challenges 1. Kinds of subject, contd Representation representational (figurative) works narrative subjects stories episodes in stories, i.e., events non-narrative subjects people, animals, plants objects, e.g., buildings activities; places; periods [work types: portraits, still lifes, landscapes, genre scenes, architectural drawings...]

14 OCLC Online Computer Library Center Challenges 1. Kinds of subject, contd non-representational works abstract works buildings furniture decorative arts subject / content = meaning (symbolic, allegorical, thematic, conceptual) form, composition function, purpose, use

15 OCLC Online Computer Library Center Challenges 1. Kinds of subject, contd Panofskys theory of iconography 3 layers of meaning = 3 layers of iconographical research: 1.pre-iconographical description description of primary (natural) subject-matter knowledge required: (i) of objects/events (ii) of history of style: i.e., how objects/events are expressed by certain forms at certain times

16 OCLC Online Computer Library Center Challenges 1. Kinds of subject, contd 2.iconographical analysis analysis of secondary (conventional) subject-matter knowledge required: (i) of literary sources of themes/concepts (ii) of history of types: i.e., how themes/concepts are expressed by certain objects/events at certain times 3.iconological interpretation interpretation of intrinsic meaning knowledge required: (i) synthetic intuition of the essential tendencies of human mind (ii) of history of symbols: i.e., how essential tendencies are expressed by certain themes/concepts at certain times

17 OCLC Online Computer Library Center Challenges 1. Kinds of subject, contd Ofness and aboutness what is the work of? generically: description e.g., Nude standing woman seen from front, holding dagger in right hand specifically: identification e.g., The suicide of Lucretia what is the work about? interpretation e.g., virtuousness

18 OCLC Online Computer Library Center CCO recommendation #1 subject data should be consistently given for all works, not just for representational ones (even if those data end up overlapping with the content of other elements, e.g. Work Type)

19 OCLC Online Computer Library Center Challenges 2. Subject analysis Ofness who? what? where? when? people, objects/activities, places, times generic to specific left to right; top to bottom; foreground to background...

20 OCLC Online Computer Library Center Challenges 2. Subject analysis, contd Aboutness what is the meaning of the work? what is expressed by the work? what do the objects, events, etc., depicted in the work symbolize? how may the image be interpreted? what was the intention of the works creator? how has the work been interpreted historically?

21 OCLC Online Computer Library Center CCO recommendation #2 take a methodical approach to subject analysis

22 OCLC Online Computer Library Center Challenges 3. Term selection What kinds of terms? How many terms? factors that cant help but affect the specificity of indexing: quality and quantity of available scholarly information about the work extent of indexers knowledge of the work extent of indexers general pre-iconographic knowledge depth of indexers indexing expertise availability of time; money; human resources; technology at institutions disposal

23 OCLC Online Computer Library Center Challenges 3. Term selection, contd factors that should also affect the specificity of indexing needs of end-users: expert and non-expert characteristics of the collection relative importance of the work presence of unusual details in the work institutional policies number of terms to be assigned per work method of subject analysis to be used capabilities of system e.g., to link NTs to BTs, preferred terms to synonyms and RTs, etc.

24 OCLC Online Computer Library Center CCO recommendation #3a dont be specific without the support of scholarly evidence better to be general and accurate than specific and wrong

25 OCLC Online Computer Library Center CCO recommendation #3b use subject terms that have been identified as preferred in established authority files (controlled vocabularies)

26 OCLC Online Computer Library Center Challenges 4. Authority control Four kinds of authority file Personal and Corporate Body Authority preferred forms of names of real people/bodies (as artists, patrons, subjects of works) Geographic Place Authority preferred forms of names of real places

27 OCLC Online Computer Library Center Challenges 4. Authority control, contd Concept Authority preferred forms of genre terms e.g. still life, landscape preferred forms of generic subject terms objects, materials, activities, agents, properties, styles, periods treated as subjects

28 OCLC Online Computer Library Center Challenges 4. Authority control, contd Subject Authority preferred forms of iconographical terms proper names, uniform titles, standard labels of characters, situations, events, themes, works (e.g., buildings) in historical, mythological, religious, literary contexts

29 OCLC Online Computer Library Center Challenges 4. Authority control, contd cf. AAT: Art & Architecture Thesaurus terms for describing what objects / images are project began 1980; funded by CLR, NEH, Mellon, then Getty from 1985; sponsored by ARLIS, CAA, SAH, etc. current: version 3.0-Web, at cf. ICONCLASS: Iconographic Classification System terms for describing what objects / images are of / about 1949: van de Waal (U. Leiden) began to develop ideas that led to ICONCLASS : published in 17 vols. ICONCLASS Libertas Browser (KNAW, Amsterdam): web-accessible version, at

30 OCLC Online Computer Library Center Challenges 4. Authority control, contd Kinds of source of terminology for local authority files distinguished by structure: hierarchical vs. non-hierarchical by object type: subjects vs. people/places by scope: domain-specific vs. interdisciplinary by purpose: authority control vs. end-user reference

31 OCLC Online Computer Library Center CCO recommendation #4 link the occurrences of subject terms in work records to the authority records for those terms (in authority files that implement synonym control and hierarchical structure)

32 OCLC Online Computer Library Center Challenges 5. Record structure Metadata element sets cf. CDWA: Categories for the Description of Works of Art ed. Baca, Harpring funded by Getty, NEH, CAA 2000: version 2.0; on web at wa / wa / cf. VRA Core Categories ed. Lanzi, Whiteside 2002: version 3.0; on web at

33 OCLC Online Computer Library Center Challenges 5. Record structure, contd Subject metadata elements recommended by CCO Description [free-text; non-repeatable] Subject [required; controlled; repeatable] Extent for designating the part of the work to which the subject terms are applicable Subject Type for distinguishing between description, identification, interpretation

34 OCLC Online Computer Library Center CCO recommendation #5 implement separate subject elements for display and for retrieval

35 OCLC Online Computer Library Center Statue of Hercules (Lansdowne Herakles) Unknown Roman sculptor; after the School of Polykleitos about 125 CE marble height: 193.5cm J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles, CA) ©2004 J. Paul Getty Trust.

36 OCLC Online Computer Library Center Description: Herakles standing in contrapposto, holding his attributes, the skin of the Nemean lion and a club. This statue was found in Tivoli ca. 1790, in the ruins of Hadrians villa; it was in the collection of the Marquess of Lansdowne until It is related in appearance to works attributed to 4th- century BCE Greek sculptors; however, the work has an eclectic style that is purely Roman. Subject--Description: religion/mythology; human figure; male; nude; lion skin; club Subject--Identification: Hercules (Greek/Roman hero); Nemean Lion

37 OCLC Online Computer Library Center Example of a Subject Authority record Subject Names: Hercules (preferred); Herakles; Heracles; Ercole; Hercule; Hércules Hierarchical Position: Classical mythology--Greek heroic legends-- Story of Hercules--Hercules Indexing Terms: Greek hero; king; strength; fortitude; perseverance; Argos; Thebes Note: Probably based on an actual historical figure, a king of ancient Argos. The legendary figure was the son of Zeus and Alcmene... Related Subjects: Labors of Hercules; Love Affairs of Hercules; Zeus (Greek god); Alcmene (Greek heroine); Hera (Greek goddess) Dates: Story developed in Argos, but was taken over at early date by Thebes; literary sources are late, though earlier texts may be surmised. Earliest: Latest: 9999 Sources: ICONCLASS Grant, Michael and John Hazel. Gods and Mortals in Classical Mythology. Springfield, MA: G & C Merriam Company, Page: 212 ff.http://www.iconclass.nl/

38 OCLC Online Computer Library Center Opportunities integrity and longevity of data consistent, reliable access to data exchange, sharing, reuse of data interoperability of systems easy migration of data to new systems communication, cooperation, collaboration

39 OCLC Online Computer Library Center Some residual questions should indexers be expected to do iconographical research to index aboutness? should cultural-historical questions about a works unintended meanings be answered by indexers? how may future users needs be predicted? what role for general knowledge-organization schemes?

40 OCLC Online Computer Library Center DDC Class Iconography for texts about the treatment of specific subjects in visual art (and for collections of images of specific subjects) Human figures Nature and still life Architectural subjects and cityscapes Symbolism and allegory Mythology and legend Religion Other specific subjects

41 OCLC Online Computer Library Center DDC Class Iconography, contd Drawing other subjects Add to base number the numbers following in – Collections of drawings by subject (Iconography) Add to base number the numbers following in – Photography of specific subjects Add to base number the numbers following in – Photographs Add to base number 779 the numbers following in –

42 OCLC Online Computer Library Center DDC Table 3C. Notation to Be Added Where Instructed [at] , for texts about Special topics in the arts Arts displaying specific qualities of style, mood, viewpoint Add to base number the numbers following 1 in notation 11–18 from Table 3C –.48 Arts dealing with specific themes and subjects Add to base number the numbers following 3 in notation 32–38 from Table 3C Motion pictures, radio, television

43 OCLC Online Computer Library Center DDC Table 3C, contd Notation to Be Added Where Instructed [at] , Arts... dealing with specific themes and subjects 32 Places 33 Times 35 Humanity 36 Physical and natural phenomena 37 The supernatural, mythological, legendary 38 Philosophic and abstract themes

44 OCLC Online Computer Library Center DDC Table 3C, contd Notation to Be Added Where Instructed [at] , Arts... displaying specific qualities of style, mood, viewpoint 11 Nontraditional viewpoints 12 Realism and naturalism 13 Idealism 14 Classicism and romanticism 15 Symbolism, allegory, fantasy, myth 16 Tragedy and horror 17 Comedy 18 Irony

45 OCLC Online Computer Library Center Jonathan Furner (202) Thank You. Questions?


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