1. Controlled Vocabularies in Context
2. What Are Controlled Vocabularies?
3. Relationships in Controlled Vocabularies
4. Vocabularies for Cultural Objects
5. Using Multiple Vocabularies
6. Local Authorities
7. Constructing a Vocabulary or Authority
8. Indexing with Controlled
9. Retrieval Using Controlled Vocabularies
Appendix: Selected Vocabularies and Other Sources for Terminology
Selected Bibliography
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Introduction to Controlled Vocabularies


The Getty Vocabulary Program has devoted almost three decades to building thesauri that can be used as knowledge bases, cataloging and documentation tools, and online search assistants. In addition to building tools for use by art and cultural heritage professionals and the general public, we also provide training opportunities and educational materials on how to build and implement controlled vocabularies. Part of our mission as an institution devoted to research and education is to share our knowledge and expertise with the international art and cultural heritage communities in their broadest sense.

Elisa Lanzi's Introduction to Vocabularies, which appeared in print in 1998 and was updated in an online version in 2000, offers a general overview of vocabularies for art and material culture. Introduction to Controlled Vocabularies is a much more detailed "how-to" guide to building controlled vocabulary tools, cataloging and indexing cultural materials with terms and names from controlled vocabularies, and using vocabularies in search engines and databases to enhance discovery and retrieval in the online environment.

"How forceful are right words!" is written in Job 6:25. The King James Version of the Bible uses the word forcible, meaning "forceful" or "powerful," instead. In the online environment, words have the power to lead users to the information resources that they seek. But we should not force users to know what we consider to be the "right" word or name in order for them to be able to obtain the best search results.

We recognize that a single concept can be expressed by more than one word, and that a single word can express more than one concept. Words can change over time and take a variety of forms, and they can be translated into many languages. A carefully constructed controlled vocabulary provides catalogers and others who create descriptive metadata with the "right" or "preferred" name or term to use in describing collections and other resources, but it also clusters together all of the synonyms, orthographic and grammatical variations, historical forms, and even in some cases "wrong" names or terms in order to enhance access for a broad range of users without constraining them to the use of the "right" term. With millions of searches being conducted by millions of users each day via Web search engines and in proprietary databases, the power of words is a crucial factor in providing access to the wealth of information resources now available in electronic form. We hope that this book will provide organizations and individuals who wish to enhance access to their collections and other online resources with a practical tool for creating and implementing vocabularies as reference tools, sources of documentation, and powerful enhancements for online searching.

Murtha Baca, Getty Research Institute