type of object is it (for example, painting, sculpture, clock, mask)?
The first question most people ask themselves when confronted
with an object is "What is it?" It is not always possible to provide
an answer in anything but the broadest terms, for example, clock.
In most cases only an expert will be able to identify the object
exactly, for example, quarter repeating carriage clock.
It is important to attempt an answer, however broad, because this
category acts as the primary means of classifying objects, and
is crucial for locating records of objects in both manual and
automated retrieval systems.
of Object is recorded either in the form of a single term
(for example, spear) or as a short descriptive phrase, if known,
that combines information about the objects form, function, materials
and techniques of construction, mechanism, and period.
warrior ear ornament
Meissen vase with chinoiserie decoration
Gray limestone head of a Bhudda
English 18th century diamond spray broach
red lacquered ormolu musical automaton clock
a particular type of object is known by a number of widely used
names? For example, long case clock, tall case clock, and
grandfather clock are different names for the same object.
More than one term for the same object causes problems when it
comes to retrieving information: if an object is documented using
one term, and searched for using another, it will not be found.
For this reason, some organizations select one term to be the
"preferred term" the term used by the organization to describe
a particular type of object and make other terms synonyms.
For example, the preferred term might be short case clock
and the synonym grandmother clock. This process may be taken further
by providing a list of approved terms from which to choose when
entering and retrieving information. This "pick list" approach
makes the information more retrievable, and is useful in multilingual
databases by creating links between the names of an object in
different languages. On the other hand, it tends to restrict users
by offering too few choices, resulting in the need for the options
other or miscellaneous for objects not covered by
categorize their objects at two levels, placing them in broad
categories (for example, arms and armour) as well as specific types (for example,
breast-plate). Some go further by employing on-line, hierarchically
structured thesauri to enable information to be entered and retrieved
at a number of levels.
Level 1 furniture
Level 2 chair
Level 3 windsor chair
Level 4 fan-back
windsor chair (US)
the best known of these thesauri is the Art & Architecture Thesaurus
(AAT) (www.gii.getty.edu/vocabularies/aat), a controlled vocabulary
that provides terms for documentation of the cultural heritage.
The AAT aids retrieval of information in computerized databases,
by providing paths composed of synonyms, broader and narrower
terms, and related concepts. The tool enables users to refine,
expand, and enhance searches and achieve more comprehensive and
of related objects such as a baptismal set requires a choice whether
to describe individual component parts or the set as a whole.
For example, a tea and coffee service comprises a number of objects
i.e., teapot, coffee cups, tea cups, saucers, plates, cream
jug, sugar bowl, and slop bowl that can be described either
as a whole or as a number of individual related objects. The service
can be documented as a whole by entering the collective name under
Type of Object and providing a description of the individual
objects using the category Description.
Type of Object: tea and coffee service
tea and coffee service painted in red, blue-green, and gold
with birds, flowers, and foliage in the Oriental style, comprising:
7 in. teapot and cover, 4.5 in. cream jug, five tea cups,
six saucers, 5 in. sugar bowl and cover, 5 in. slop bowl,
and six coffee cups.
mind that some objects incorporate, or comprise, other objects
of a different type, made of different materials and techniques,
or by a different maker at a different date.
Gold intaglio bracelet set with 13 cornelian and hardstone intaglios,
mostly Roman 1st to 3rd century AD, the intaglios mounted in
gold circa 1820.