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The Art & Architecture Thesaurus ® (AAT), the Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names ® (TGN), the Union List of Artist Names ® (ULAN), the Cultural Objects Name Authority ® (CONA), and the Iconography Authority ™(IA) are structured resources that can be used to improve access to information for art, architecture, and other material culture. The Getty Vocabularies are not simple 'value vocabularies'; they are unique knowledge bases in themselves. Through rich metadata and links, the Getty Vocabularies provide powerful conduits for knowledge creation, complex research, and discovery for digital art history and related disciplines.

  • Cataloging: For some users, the Getty Vocabularies are utilized as data value standards at the point of documentation or cataloging, to promote consistency in assignment of a term or to provide options among multiple terms referencing the same concept. The Vocabularies provide preferred names/terms and synonyms for people, places, and things. They also provide structure and classification schemes that can aid in documentation.

  • Linking: For other users, the Getty Vocabularies are used in linking, in order to reference the unique identifier of the Vocabulary record, or to otherwise reconcile their data.

  • Retrieval: For other users, the Getty Vocabularies aid in retrieval and discovery, utilizing synonymous terms, broader/narrower contexts, and other rich contextual data in search assistants, in database retrieval systems, and more broadly in a linked environment. The Vocabularies are rich knowledge bases that contain dozens of fields of rich contextual data about each concept, and semantic networks that highlight links and paths between concepts.

  • Research tools: For other users, the Getty Vocabularies are used as look-up resources, valuable because of the rich information and contextual knowledge that they contain.

Accessibility: In order to meet the needs of these various user communities, the Getty Vocabularies are made available in several ways.

  • Data files: Releases include Linked Open Data (LOD) (JSON, RDF, N3/Turtle, N-Triples for GVP and Linked.Art), XML, Relational Tables, Web Services APIs. These files are used by developers or incorporated in various tools by vendors or others. These releases may be transformed to comply with other formats, such as the MARC format used for ULAN and TGN in the Virtual International Authority File (VIAF®). Some of these releases contain simplified versions of the data, while others contain the full, rich data sets, providing versions to meet the requirements of various developer communities. The AAT, TGN, and ULAN are available as LOD, relational tables, and XML. AAT, TGN, ULAN, CONA, and IA are available through APIs. The data file releases are refreshed periodically throughout the year. The Getty Vocabularies are published under The Getty Vocabularies are published under the Open Data Commons Attribution License (ODC-By) 1.0.

  • Online Search: The five Getty Vocabularies' online search pages are consistently the top sites visited at the Getty Research Institute Web site each month. Using these search tools, catalogers copy-and-paste Vocabulary terms and IDs as part of their daily workflow. Researchers use the search to locate rich information about the Vocabulary concepts. In the results displays, for each concept the data fields are presented in a logical full-record display for end users, as well as in hierarchical views. The online search data is refreshed monthly.

    Various releases or utilizations of the Getty Vocabulary data may contain more or less of the full, available data for each Vocabulary record, depending upon the purpose of the release. An implementation that intends to ask complex queries using the Vocabulary data would require the full available data. In another example, if a developer only needs to link to the unique identifier for the concept, perhaps a streamlined data set would be more appropriate; e.g., the ULAN data (and soon TGN data also) that is included in the VIAF (Virtual International Authority File) is a subset of the full data available, which is streamlined and parsed to fit the particular requirements of MARC.

    Target audience: The five Getty vocabularies are intended to provide terminology and other information about the objects, artists, concepts, and places important to various disciplines that specialize in art, architecture, and other material culture. The primary users of the Getty vocabularies include researchers in art and art history, museums, art libraries, archives, visual resource collection catalogers, conservation specialists, archaeological projects, bibliographic projects concerned with art, and the developers and information specialists who are dealing with the needs of these users. In addition, a significant number of users of the Getty vocabularies are students or members of the general public.

Comprehensiveness and updates: The AAT contains generic terms; it contains no iconographic subjects and no proper names. That is, each concept is a case of many (a generic thing), not a case of one (a specific thing). For example, the generic term cathedral is in the AAT, but the specific proper name Chartres Cathedral is out of scope for the AAT (it would be included in CONA instead). See Scope and Structure below.

The AAT is a compiled resource; it is not comprehensive. The AAT grows through contributions. See the online list of over 300 Contributors. Contributors include projects at the Getty Research Institute such as the Florentine Codex initiative; the Getty Conservation Institute and the J. Paul Getty Museum also contribute to AAT. Other recent contributors to all Getty Vocabularies include the Centro de Documentación de Bienes Patrimoniales, Chile; Netherlands Institute for Art History (RKD); Academia Sinica of Taiwan; the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin Preussischer Kulturbesitz; the Built Works Registry; the American Institute of Indian Studies; the Traditional Chinese Architecture Terminology project (Southeast University, Nanjing and Vanderbilt University), Osterreichische Galerie Belvedere in Vienna; the Courtauld Institute; Grove Art online; the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam; Indiana University slide library; the Victoria and Albert Museum; Istituto Centrale per il Catalogo e la Documentazione, Rome; the Canadian Heritage Information Network (CHIN); Belgian Initiative to Broaden the Network for the French Translation of the Art and Architecture Thesaurus (Brussels, Belgium); the Canadian Centre for Architecture; the Frick Art Reference Library; the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of African Art; the National Art Library in London; the Mystic Seaport Museum; the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin; the Bunting Visual Resources Library at the University of New Mexico, and many others.

As of this writing, the AAT database contains 73,831 concept records (478,840 terms).

Minimum record: A minimum record in AAT contains a numeric ID, a term, and a position in the hierarchy. Information in the AAT was compiled by the Getty Vocabulary Program in collaboration with many institutions. Institutions, projects, and individual scholars or experts who are interested in contributing to the AAT may contact us at Implementers should keep in mind that the vocabularies grow and change over time. Updated data are released periodically throughout the year.

Contribute to the Getty vocabularies: Read about contributions.

Mission and History of the AAT

Mission: The mission of the Getty Vocabulary Program (GVP) is to produce rich, structured, authoritative vocabularies, in compliance with international standards, that provide a powerful conduit for inter-related, linked, and meaningful research, discovery, and understanding of the visual arts and their various histories, in collaboration with the international community, and utilizing training and outreach to inform the field. One of our primary goals is to broaden and enrich the scope and coverage of the Getty Vocabularies to become ever more multilingual, multicultural, inclusive, and representative of the subjects and priorities of the GRI, the Getty, and global art history.

History: Work on the AAT began in the late 1970s in response to a need expressed by art libraries and art journal indexing services that were beginning to automate their cataloging and indexing procedures. Soon catalogers of museum objects and visual resource collections also expressed a need for similar controlled vocabulary to encourage consistency in cataloging and more efficient retrieval of information. While controlled headings and terminology were already common in the field of bibliographic cataloging, and thesauri for cataloging in the sciences was by then well established, the use of a thesaurus for indexing was not welcomed by art catalogers prior to the advent of computerized cataloging.

From its inception, the AAT was intended to satisfy a variety of user groups. The initial core of the AAT was gathered from terminology already being used in authority lists and the literature of art and architectural history; this terminology was approved and supplemented by a scholarly advisory team comprising art and architectural historians, architects, librarians, visual resource curators, archivists, museum personnel, and specialists in thesaurus construction. Reaching consensus among these various groups required long discussions and difficult negotiations, with the goal of creating a resource applicable to their diverse interests and requirements that would allow cross-collection retrieval. The AAT grows and changes via contributions from the user community and editorial work of the Getty Vocabulary Program.

The basic principles under which the AAT is constructed and maintained were established in 1981, with later revisions to practice in order to accommodate increased multilinguality, multiculturality, and inclusiveness. The scope of AAT includes terminology needed to catalog and retrieve information about the visual arts and architecture; it is constructed using national and international standards for thesaurus construction; it was initially a hierarchy inspired by the tree structures of MeSH (Medical Subject Headings Thesaurus); it is based on terminology that is current, warranted for use by authoritative literary sources, and validated by use in the scholarly art and architectural history community; and it is compiled and edited in response to the needs of the user community.

The AAT was originally founded by directors of libraries and architectural experts: Toni Petersen, Dora Crouch, and Pat Molholt. Technical advice and financial support were provided by the Getty Trust. Editorial work has been managed by the Getty since 1983. In 1987 the Getty created a department dedicated to compiling and distributing terminology, now known as the Getty Vocabulary Program. The AAT has been constructed over the decades by numerous members of the user community and an army of dedicated editors, under the supervision of several managers. The AAT was published in 1990 and 1994 in both print form ( Art & Architecture Thesaurus. Toni Petersen, director. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990; and 2nd edition, 1994) and machine-readable files. Given the growing size and frequency of changes and additions to the AAT, by 1997 it had become evident that hard-copy publication was impractical. It was then published in automated formats only, in both a searchable online Web interface and in data files that were originally available for licensing, but are now available openly and free of fees under the Open Data Commons Attribution License (ODC-By) 1.0. The AAT offices were originally located in Williamstown, Massachusetts, but later moved to the Getty's Los Angeles headquarters in order to better coordinate with the work of the ULAN and TGN. The Getty Vocabulary Program is now located at the Getty Center in Los Angeles.

The data is compiled and edited in an editorial system that was custom-built by Getty technical team to meet the unique requirements of compiling data from many contributors, building complex and changing polyhierarchies, merging, moving, and publishing in various formats. Final editorial control of the AAT is maintained by the Getty Vocabulary Program, using well-established, standards-based editorial rules.

Currently, Patricia Harpring is Managing Editor of the Getty Vocabulary Program, within the Getty Research Institute's Research and Knowledge Creation section, led by Nancy Um. Editors are Jonathan Ward, Robin Johnson, and Antonio Beecroft. The technical team is located in the Getty Digital division; team members include Lily Pregill, Gregg Garcia, and David Newbury.

Scope and Structure

Scope: The AAT includes generic terms, and associated dates, relationships, and other information about concepts related to or required to catalog, discover, and retrieve information about art, architecture, and other visual cultural heritage, including related disciplines dealing with visual works, such as archaeology and conservation, where the works are of the type collected by art museums and repositories for visual cultural heritage, or that are architecture. It is our goal to be ever more inclusive of various cultures and their visual works. Also, in recognition of diverse collections found in art museums, the AAT contains terminology to describe objects and associated activities that are ceremonial or utilitarian in nature, but are not necessarily labeled as art according to traditional Western aesthetics.

The AAT is used for work types, roles, materials, styles, cultures, techniques, subject, and other fields in a work record, so long as terms fit into established AAT facets.

What is excluded in AAT? In general, terminology from domains other than visual arts is excluded from AAT, except to the extent that such terminology is necessary to catalog or discover information about visual works, including new media art, conceptual art, and performance art (as distinct from the performing arts).

Excluded are proper names and iconographical subjects for the domain of art and architecture, but which are included in the other Getty Vocabularies: examples are names of people (ULAN), geographic names (TGN), titles of works of art (CONA), or iconographical topics (IA). Also excluded from AAT are unbound compound terms, which combine words from distinct hierarchies; for example, Baroque cathedral is an unbound compound term combining terms for a style and for a work type. Excluded are phrases or words that do not have literary warrant, organizational warrant, or user warrant. Overall, records that lack the minimal information for an AAT record are excluded; see guidelines for contributions for more information regarding minimum contribution requirements.

Structure: The AAT is a structured vocabulary containing terms and other information about concepts. Terms in AAT may be used to describe art, architecture, decorative arts, material culture, and archival materials. The target audience includes museums, libraries, visual resource collections, archives, conservation projects, cataloging projects, and bibliographic projects. Terms for any concept may include the plural form of the term, singular form, natural order, inverted order, spelling variants, scientific and common forms, various forms of speech, and synonyms that have various etymological roots. Among these terms, one is flagged as the preferred term, or descriptor. There may be multiple descriptors reflecting usage in multiple languages. Preferences for individual contributors may differ and are noted.

The AAT is a thesaurus in compliance with ISO and NISO standards.

The focus of each AAT record is a concept. In the database, each concept's record (also called a subject) is identified by a unique numeric ID. Linked to each concept record are terms, related concepts, a parent (that is, a position in the hierarchy), sources for the data, and notes. The temporal coverage of the AAT ranges from Antiquity to the present and the scope is global.

More about scope and structure: The AAT is a hierarchical database; its trees branch from a root called Top of the AAT hierarchies (Subject_ID: 300000000). There may be multiple broader contexts, making AAT polyhierarchical. In addition to the hierarchical relationships, the AAT has equivalence and associative relationships.

The conceptual framework of facets and hierarchies in the AAT is designed to allow a general classification scheme for art and architecture. The framework is not subject-specific; for example, there is no defined portion of the AAT that is specific only for Renaissance painting. Terms to describe Renaissance paintings will be found in many locations in the AAT hierarchies.

Facets and hierarchies: Facets constitute the major subdivisions of the AAT hierarchical structure. A facet contains a homogeneous class of concepts, the members of which share characteristics that distinguish them from members of other classes. For example, marble refers to a substance used in the creation of art and architecture, and it is found in the Materials facet. Impressionist denotes a visually distinctive style of art, and it is found in the Styles and Periods facet.

  • The facets are conceptually organized in a scheme that proceeds from abstract concepts to concrete, physical artifacts.

    • Associated Concepts: This facet contains terms for abstract concepts and phenomena that relate to the study and execution of various areas of human thought and activity, including architecture and art in all media, as well as related disciplines. Also covered here are theoretical and critical concerns, ideologies, attitudes, and social or cultural movements, to the extent necessary to catalog and discover information about visual works (e.g., beauty, balance, connoisseurship, metaphor, cultural pluralism).

    • Physical Attributes: This facet contains terms for the perceptible or measurable characteristics of materials and artifacts as well as features of materials and artifacts that are not separable as components, and needed to catalog or discover information about visual works. Included are characteristics such as size and shape, chemical properties of materials, qualities of texture and hardness, and features such as surface ornament (e.g., borders, round, waterlogged, brittleness).

    • Styles and Periods: This facet contains the names of art and architecture styles, historical periods, art movements, cultures, and ethnicities. Names of people and sites are included if they designate distinct styles or periods (e.g., Yoruba, Louis XIV, Xia, Black-figure, Abstract Expressionist).

    • Agents: The Agents facet contains generic terms designating people, groups of people, and organizations identified by occupation, activity, or other characteristics such as physical or mental characteristics, social role or condition, and that are related to art, architecture, and other visual works; also included are terms for other living organisms (e.g., printmakers, landscape architects, corporations, religious orders).

    • Activities: This facet contains terms for areas of endeavor, physical and mental actions, discrete occurrences, systematic sequences of actions, methods employed toward a certain end, and processes occurring in materials or visual works. Activities may range from branches of learning and professional fields to specific life events, from mentally executed tasks to processes performed on or with materials and objects, from single physical actions to complex games (e.g., archaeology, engineering, analyzing, contests, exhibitions, running, drawing (image-making), corrosion).

    • Materials: The Materials facet contains terms for physical substances, whether naturally or synthetically derived. These range from specific materials to types of materials designed 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 art, architecture, or other visual works (e.g., iron, clay, adhesive, emulsifier, artificial ivory, millwork).

    • Objects: The Objects facet is the largest of all the AAT facets. It contains terms for discrete tangible or visible things that are inanimate and produced by human endeavor; that is, that are either fabricated or given form by human activity. These range, in physical form, from built works to images and written documents. They range in purpose from utilitarian to the aesthetic. Also included are landscape features that provide the context for the built environment (e.g., paintings, amphorae, burden baskets, facades, cathedrals, Brewster chairs, gardens).

    • Brand Names: The Brand Names facet allows necessary additions from the conservation community, particularly where a material, process, or object does not have a generic name and the names are under trademark protection; included as needed to catalog and discover information about visual works (e.g., Agfacolor (TM), Araldite (TM), Arches paper (R), Art Sorb (TM); Aquazol (TM); Papersave Process (TM)).

  • Hierarchies: Homogeneous groupings of terminology, or hierarchies, are arranged within the seven facets of the AAT. A broader term provides an immediate class or genus to a concept, and serves to clarify its meaning. The narrower term is always a type of, kind of, example of, or manifestation of its broader context. For example, orthographic drawings is the broader context for plans (drawings) because all plans are orthographic.


    Facets and Hierarchies in the AAT

    Hierarchy: Associated Concepts

    Hierarchies: Attributes and Properties, Conditions and Effects, Design Elements, Color

    Hierarchy: Styles and Periods

    Hierarchies: People, Organizations, Living Organisms

    Hierarchies: Disciplines, Functions, Events, Physical and Mental Activities, Processes and Techniques

    Hierarchy: Materials

    Hierarchies: Object Groupings and Systems, Object Genres, Components

    Built Environment: Settlements and Landscapes, Built Complexes and Districts, Single Built Works, Open Spaces and Site Elements

    Furnishings and Equipment: Furnishings, Costume, Tools and Equipment, Weapons and Ammunition, Measuring Devices, Containers, Sound Devices, Recreational Artifacts, Transportation Vehicles

    Visual and Verbal Communication: Visual Works, Exchange Media, Information Forms

    Hierarchy: Brand Names


Information in the Record (Fields)

Click on field names to go to the full Editorial Guidelines on a given field. Fields marked "required-default" are filled with default values when contributors do not supply the data. The following is a partial list of fields. For the full set of fields, see Editorial Guidelines and Data Dictionary.

  • Language: A primary goal of the AAT is to become increasingly multilingual and multicultural in scope. Most fields in AAT records are written in English. However, the structure of the AAT supports multilinguality for terms and scope notes. All terms are written in Unicode. The the overall record-preferred term, which is also the English-preferred term, is written in the Roman alphabet.

  • Diacritics: The AAT is released in Unicode. However, diacritical codes may be seen in certain legacy data. The AAT terms and other fields historically have contained dozens of different diacritics, expressed as codes (e.g., $00) in the data files. The AAT diacritical codes were mapped to Unicode.

  • Fields: The AAT fields (i.e., discrete pieces of data) are described below. Data dictionaries for the licensed files are available at

  • Subject ID (required-default)
    Unique numeric identification for the AAT record. Each concept in the AAT database is uniquely identified by a numeric ID that serves to link the terms and all other pertinent information to the concept record. The ID is generally permanent. Occasionally an ID may change due to the record being merged with another record; in such cases, the new IDs are included in the licensed files, and a mapping between defunct and new IDs is provided to licensees.
  • Record Type (required-default)
    Type designation that characterizes the AAT record (concept, guide term, etc.). Record types include the following:

    Concept: Refers to records in the AAT that represent concepts, which include the majority of terms in the AAT: types of objects and architecture (e.g., amphora, cathedral), materials (bronze, stained glass), styles and periods (e.g., Neolithic, Baroque), types of people (e.g., painters, sculptors), activities (e.g., museology, printmaking), physical attributes (e.g., inlays, crazing), and associated concepts (e.g., verism, sprezzatura); records for concepts include the terms, a note, and bibliography. Compare Concept with Guide term and Hierarchy name.

    Guide term and node label: Guide terms and node labels historically are levels that collocate similar sets or classes of records as necessary. Guide terms and node labels are not used for indexing or cataloging. In displays, they should be enclosed in angled brackets. A node label is distinguished in that it contains a characteristic of division, usually including the word "by" (e.g., <photographs by form>).

    In the AAT, the designation of guide terms that are not node labels has been reconsidered. Current policy holds that guide terms that do not explicitly define the characteristic of division should be reconstituted as postable terms whenever possible (e.g., <planographic printing processes> is now planographic printing processes).

    Hierarchy name: Refers to the top of a hierarchy (e.g., Processes and Techniques). The hierarchy name is generally not used for indexing or cataloging.

    Facet: Refers to the top of a facet, which is one of the major divisions of the AAT (e.g., Activities Facet). It is not used for indexing or cataloging.


  • Label (required-default)
    Brief text identification of the concept, concatenated from the preferred term (descriptor), qualifier (if applicable; Christmas in the example below), and the parent string (in parentheses in the example below, abbreviated as indicated with an elipsis). Whereas the Subject ID identifies the concept in the database, the Label serves as an easily legible heading to identify the concept for end-users. In the AAT displays (an entry in a results list display is illustrated below), the Label is displayed with the hierarchy icon (to the left of the Label) in order to permit the end-user to go to the hierarchy display for purposes of browsing.


  • Note
    Often called the Scope Note, a note that describes what the term means in the context of the AAT. Many, but not all, AAT records include a note; topics include the context, meaning, and usage of the concept and its terms, explaining how the meaning and usage of the concept differs from related concepts, as necessary. See the Editorial Guidelines for futher discussion. The example below is the Scope Note for still lifes.



  • Sources for the note
    A controlled reference to the sources used for information in the Scope Note, typically published sources. All information in the note must derive from an authoritative source. Notes must be based on facts and scholarly research. For descriptors, literary warrant must be established by use of at least three sources. See Editorial Guidelines.
  • Contributor for the note
    A controlled reference to the institution or project that contributed the Scope Note. The note may be a translation of the original English note.

  • Language of the note
    The language of the Scope Note. Scope Note is a repeating field. There should be one scope note in English; it may be translated in other languages.

  • Terms (required)
    Words or phrases referring to the concept, including a preferred term and variant terms. All terms in a record (i.e., all terms linked by a single Subject ID) are considered equivalents (i.e., synonyms). An AAT record may contain synonyms in the plural, singular, various forms of speech, variant spellings, terms in various languages, and synonyms of different etymological roots.


  • Term ID (required-default)
    Numeric ID that identifies the term in the database (e.g., in the example above, nature morte has the following Term_ID: 1000267038). Term IDs are unique; homographs have different IDs. In certain applications, the Term_ID may be hidden from end-users.

  • Sequence Number (required-default)
    Display order of the terms; terms are arranged in a particular order by algorithm in loading or by the editors. The preferred term is positioned first in a list of terms for the concept, other descriptors are also near the top of the list, followed by alternate descriptors, followed by other terms in a logical order, often alphabetically or by language. Current terms are sorted above historical terms.

    Implementers should sort the terms by the Display_order number, which is included in the data files, but typically hidden from end-users.

  • Flags for the Terms
    In displays for the end-user, Terms are displayed with various flags, often represented as capital letters in parentheses following the term (as in the example above). The capital letter in the above display is linked to an explanation of what the flag means. Not all of the flags contained in the data files are displayed to end-users (that is, some flags may be hidden from end-users in the AAT Online).

    Preferred Flag (required default)
    The flag preferred following a term indicates that the term is the so-called preferred term for the record. (The flag non-preferred is hidden in the display.)

    Each record has one and only one default preferred term, flagged in order to provide a default term for the hierarchical and other displays (see also Language of the Terms below). The record-preferred term is always a descriptor in English. A preferred term may be used by catalogers who wish to apply the AAT as an authority, and consistently use a single term to refer to a concept. In the AAT, the preferred term is the most commonly used term in American English, based on usage in authoritative scholarly sources and general reference works.

    Implementers may opt for other displays. The AAT may have multiple descriptors, one in each language; see discussion below. A contributor's preference for a given term may be flagged. Also, the term as preferred in a given source may be flagged. Users and implementers may choose the preferred term that best suits their requirements. Users may link to UFs or other terms, if their application allows.

    LC Flag
    Also called the AACR Flag. Where applicable, flags terms that correspond to Library of Congress Subject Headings. The default value is NA

    NA = Not Applicable
    Y = Yes

    Term Type (required-default)
    Indicates the type of term, based on specialized terminology used in thesauri. The preferred term (its term type is descriptor) is often the plural form of the noun; however, in such cases the singular form will be flagged as an alternate descriptor, thus designated for end-users who prefer the singular rather than the plural form of the term (used in conjunction with the Part of Speech flag). In the example above, the singular form still life is flagged with an AD, indicating that it is an alternate descriptor. If a synonym in another language is included, it may also be a descriptor. The flags and their meanings are listed below.

    Note that translations in other languages may flag the Alternate Descriptor, a singular form of the noun, as preferred for that language.

    D = Descriptor
    AD = Alternate descriptor
    UF = Used for term, flagging synonyms that are not descriptors or alternate descriptors.

    Historical flag (required-default)
    Indicates if the term is current or historical. Most terms in the AAT are flagged current. However, it is sometimes necessary to indicate a term was used for the concept in the past, but is no longer typically used. For example, formerly the historical term dinoi (lebetes) was used for Greek vessels today known as a lebetes, while in current usage dinoi are a different type of vessel.

    C = Current
    H = Historical
    B = Both current and historical
    U = Unknown
    NA = Not Applicable
    LU = Local use

    A special use of the Historical flag is Local use.
    Local use:
    Reserved for terms that are found in archival sources or otherwise are not helpful for broad retrieval use, but are included for specialized uses.

    Vernacular flag (required-default)
    Indicates if the term is in the vernacular (local) language, or some other language. The default value is U for Undetermined. See also Language of the Terms below.

    V = Vernacular
    O = Other
    U = Undetermined

    Other flags
    Indicates various characteristics of the term, indicated where pertinent. The default value is NA (Not Applicable).

    NA = Not Applicable
    A = Abbreviation
    F = Full term
    C = Common term
    S = Scientific or Technical term
    J = Jargon or Slang
    N = Neologism
    CN = Chemical name
    CO = Code
    F = Formula
    SY = Symbol
    O = Official term
    PR = Provisional term

    Display Name/Term (required-default)
    Used to indicate an inverted index form of the term or a display form, used in natural language. The default value is NA (Not Applicable).

    Part of Speech (required-default)
    Indicates the category into which the term would be placed relative to its normal function in a grammatical context. The primary purpose of this flag is to distinguish plural noun descriptors from singular noun alternate descriptors, to allow end-users to extract via algorithm plural terms for indexing (used by libraries) and singular terms for displays (used by museums, who also often index with the singular form too). The default value is Undetermined.

    U = Undetermined
    PN = Plural Noun
    SN = Singular Noun
    B = Both Singular and Plural
    PP = Past Participle
    VN = Verbal Noun/Gerund
    A = Adjectival
    MN = Masculine Noun
    MSN = Masculine Singular Noun
    MPN = Masculine Plural Noun
    MB = Masculine, Both Singular and Plural
    MA = Masculine Adjectival
    FN = Feminine Noun
    FSN = Feminine Singular Noun
    FPN = Feminine Plural Noun
    FB = Feminine, Both Singular and Plural
    FA = Feminine Adjectival
    NN = Neuter Noun
    NSN = Neuter Singular Noun
    NPN = Neuter Plural Noun
    NB = Neuter, Both Singular and Plural
    NA = Neuter Adjectival


  • Dates for the Terms
    Dates comprise a Display Date, which is a note referring to a date of usage of the term, and Start Date and End Date, which are years that delimit the span of time referred to in the Display Date. Start and End Dates index the Display Date for retrieval, but are hidden from end-users. The example below illustrates a historical term in the record for wainscoting.
    Start and End Dates are years in the proleptic Gregorian calendar, which is the calendar produced by extending the Gregorian calendar to dates preceding its official introduction. Dates BCE are expressed as negative numbers. If the date extends to the current time, the End Date is 9999.

  • Language of the Terms (required-default)
    The languages for the terms may also be included. A given term may have multiple language designations because it may have the same spelling in multiple languages. Currently in the AAT, the British English term will be included if it is spelled differently from the American English term. If the term is spelled the same in British and American English, the language designation is English. In some records.
    Languages are derived from a controlled list, which includes the name of the language and a numeric code (e.g., British English / 70053). The code is hidden from end-users.

    As more and more translations are incorporated in the AAT, additional distinctions between dialects and spelling variations in the same basic language will be included, as necessary. For example, a term for a concept may differ in Spanish as spoken or written in Spain, and the term for the same concept in Spanish in Chile.

    The Language table in AAT reflects the language sub-hierarchy <languages and writing systems by specific type>.

  • Preferred flag for language (required-default)
    A "P" following the language in the examples indicates that this is the preferred term in that language. In the AAT, the record-preferred term (descriptor) is by default the preferred American English term. If there is a British English equivalent, it will be flagged. For example, the preferred British English spelling is marked with a "P" (British English-P) in the example above.

    Each langauge into which a concept is translated may have a preferred term; it may be singular or plural for nouns, depending upon the preferences of that language. For a given language, there is only one preferred term, although there may be multiple non-preferred terms in that language.

  • Language status (required-default)
    Indicates the translation status of the term or otherwise its relationship to another language. Values are the following:

    Loan term
    Literal translation
    Translation N/A

    Loan term: If the term is a loan term from another language, meaning the term in one language is used with little or no change in a second language (e.g., trompe-l'oeil is a French loan term used in English). If a term has etymological origin in another language, but the term has long been in use in that second language, this circumstance is not flagged. For example, the English term altar has origins in classical Latin, but the term is not considered a loan term from Latin.

    Literal translation: Used primarily for translation projects, a literal translation may be used when there is no target language source for the English term, but the translator has translated the words literally. This usually would happen with compound terms. It is allowed only when a loan term is not found in the target language source. An example is the French translation petites louches à fruits rafraîchis for the English berry spoons.

    Translation N/A: Used primarily for translation projects, indicates that the English term is to be used as the target language descriptor, even if the translator could not find the English term translated in target language sources. In such a case, the term is not strictly a Loan Term because target language sources do not use the English term; but the translating project has decided to retain the English term in the target language hierarchy views. Perhaps the translation project will try again later to find a translation.

  • Qualifier
    A word or phrase used to distinguish between homographs, which are terms that have the same spelling but different meanings. Qualifiers may refer to the broader context of the term or another significant distinguishing characteristic.


    In the AAT data files, the Qualifier is stored in a separate field, not in the Term field. For end-users, it should be displayed in parentheses with the Term. There may be multiple qualifiers for each term, given that qualifiers are recorded in a separate field from term and qualifiers are linked to the language. For example, if one term is used in multiple languages, each language may have its own qualifier for that term.

  • Contributor for Term (required-default)
    A reference to the institution or project that contributed the term.

  • Preferred Flag for Contributor (required-default)
    Flag indicating when the term is the one preferred by the contributor. A contributor may contribute multiple terms, but prefer only one. Values: Preferred, Non-preferred

  • Sources for Terms (required)
    A link to a controlled reference to the source that was used as warrant for the term, including a published hardcopy source, an unpublished but authoritative database, authoritative online sources such as museum Web sites, verbal scholarly opinions, and other types of sources.

  • Page Number for Term Source (required)
    A reference to the volume (if applicable) and page number where the term was found in the source. It may also include other information describing the precise place in the source where the term was found (e.g., a URL for an online source). Include any unique indentifiers for a record in another resource, such as LOC control numbers.

  • Preferred Flag for Source (required-default)
    Flag indicating whether or not this name is the entry-form or otherwise preferred form of the name for this person or corporate body in the source.

    Alternate preferred

  • Facet or Hierarchy Code
    A special thesaurus code that was historically required by some catalogers who use the AAT. In early releases of the AAT, alpha-numeric codes were used to allow the construction of the hierarchies. Even though these codes are no longer needed for that purpose in current releases, cataloging practice for some institutions still requires the inclusion of the facet and hierarchy codes, which are therefore included for the convenience of these users. In the past, each Classification Notation consisted of three parts, separated by periods: an alpha-character facet code, an alpha-character hierarchy code, and a series of codes for the particular line containing the descriptor. The first two of these codes is retained as the Facet/Hierarchy Code (illustrated below).


    Given that the AAT changes and grows, and, therefore Classification Notations were regenerated for each new release, this system for building hierarchies was difficult for users to maintain over time; it has been replaced with links between the Subject_ID and Parent_ID, which are unique, consistent numeric codes.

  • Parents (required)
    Hierarchical Positions / Parent ID. The hierarchy in the AAT refers to the method of structuring and displaying the concepts within their broader contexts. Concepts in the AAT typically have a genus/species relationship (rather than whole/part relationship). Hierarchies are built by using the Parent_ID, which is linked to each Subject_ID; the Parent_ID is hidden from end-users.

    For end-users, the Hierarchical Position is typically indicated in a display that shows broader contexts or parents of the concept. In a vertical Hierarchy Display, genus/species relationships are indicated with indention, as in the example below.


    In horizontal displays, the parents may be abbreviated, as indicated with an ellipsis in the display below (from a results list).


  • Multiple parents
    AAT is polyhierarchical. Each Subject_ID may be linked to multiple Parent_IDs. If there are multiple parents, one is marked as preferred. In displays, the preferred parent is listed first or otherwise designated. The example below illustrates the display of parents in a Full Record Display for aigrettes.


    In the full hierarchical view, it is recommended that implementers indicate relationships to non-preferred parents with an "[N]", as illustrated below.


  • Sort order (required-default)
    Sort order in the hierarchy. Siblings in the hierarchies are usually arranged alphabetically. However, they are sometimes arranged by another logical order, for example, in chronological order, as in the example below.


    For siblings at any level, implementers should build displays using the Sort_order, followed by an alphabetical sort. (In an alphabetical display all Sort_order designations are "1," and will therefore be sorted alphabetically in the second sort.) The Sort_order number is hidden from end-users.

  • Historical flag for the Parent (required-default)
    Indicates if the link between the child and its parent is current or historical. Most relationships in the AAT are flagged Current; if the flag is Current, it is generally not displayed to end-users. If the flag is Historical, it is displayed (e.g., "H" in the example below).

    C = Current
    H = Historical
    B = Both current and historical
    U = Undetermined
    NA = Not Applicable


  • Dates for the parent
    Dates comprise a Display Date, which is a note referring to a date or other information about the link between a child and its parent, and Start Date and End Date, which are years that delimit the span of time referred to in the Display Date. Start and End Dates index the Display Date for retrieval, but are hidden from end-users. The example below illustrates a historical relationship between Imperial (Roman) and Early Imperial.


    Start and End Dates are years in the proleptic Gregorian calendar, which is the calendar produced by extending the Gregorian calendar to dates preceding its official introduction. Dates BCE are expressed as negative numbers. If the relationship currently applies, the End Date is 9999.

  • Hierarchy Relationship Type (required-default)
    Indicates the type of relationship between a hierarchical child and its parent, expressed in the jargon of controlled vocabulary standards. An example of a whole/part relationship is Tuscany is a part of Italy (TGN). An example of genus/species relationship is calcite is a type of mineral (AAT). An example of the instance relationship is Rembrandt van Rijn is an example of a Person (ULAN). Most hierarchical relationships in AAT are Genus/Species.

    G=Genus/Species (generic) or BTG
    P=Whole/Part (partitive) or BTP
    I=Instance or BTI


  • Related Concepts
    Associative relationships to other concepts (subjects) in the AAT; they include various types of ties or connections between concepts, excluding genus/species (hierarchical) relationships. Each reference comprises a relationship type and a link to the Subject_ID of the related subject. For end-users, the related subject is displayed with its preferred name and parent string, as in the example for frescoes below.


  • Relationship Type
    A term or phrase characterizing the relationship between the subject at hand and the linked subject. In the example above, the relationship type in the record for frescoes indicates that arriccio, intonaco, and sinopie are materials used to produce frescoes. Relationship types are reciprocal (that is, linked to both records), drawn from a controlled list that comprises the controlled phrase and a numeric code, as illustrated below. The codes are hidden from end-users.


    Focus Entity

    Related Code


    related to



    distinguished from



    concept(s) used/created






    Given that Relationship Type is an extensible list, please refer to the most recent table, which is available with the published data files.

  • Historical flag for the Related Concept
    Indicates if the link between the related concepts is current or historical. Most relationships in the AAT are flagged Current; if the flag is Current, it is generally not displayed to end-users. If the flag is Historical, it is displayed.

    C = Current
    H = Historical
    B = Both current and historical
    U = Undetermined
    NA = Not Applicable

  • Dates for the Related Concept
    Dates comprise a Display Date, which is a note referring to a date or other information about the link between the related concepts, and Start Date and End Date, which are years that delimit the span of time referred to in the Display Date. Start and End Dates index the Display Date for retrieval, but are hidden from end-users. Dates are reciprocal, meaning that they are linked to both records in the relationship. The example below illustrates a date for the Related Concept rapiers in the record for cup hilts.


    Start and End Dates are years in the proleptic Gregorian calendar, which is the calendar produced by extending the Gregorian calendar to dates preceding its official introduction. Dates BCE are expressed as negative numbers. If the date extends to the current time, the End Date is 9999.

  • Contributors (required)
    The institutions or projects that contributed information to the AAT record. In order to give due credit to the contributing institution, it is required that implementers display a reference to the contributor to end-users.

    References to contributors are drawn from a controlled list comprising a numeric ID, a brief name, and a full name. The end-user must have access to the brief name and the full name. The Brief Name is the initials, abbreviations, or acronyms for the contributing projects or institutions (in square brackets in the display below). Contributors may be linked to the record in three ways: with the terms, with the record as a whole (subject), and with the note (scope note). In the example below, end-users may click on the initials of the contributor in the Full Record Display, which produces a fuller description of the contributor name.


  • Sources (required)
    The AAT record generally includes the bibliographic sources for the terms. Most terms were found in authoritative publications on the given topic or in standard general reference works, including dictionaries and encyclopedias. In order to give due credit to published sources, it is required that implementers display a reference to the published source to end-users.

    References to sources are drawn from a controlled list comprising a numeric ID, a brief citation, and a full citation. The end-user must have access to the brief citation and the full citation. Sources may be linked to the record in three ways: with the terms, with the record as a whole (subject), and with the note (scope note). In the example below, end-users may click on the brief citation in the Full Record Display, which displays a full citation for that source.


  • Page Number
    A reference to a volume, page, date of accessing a Web site, or heading reference in a source (as seen following the brief citation (in black following the blue citation in the above example).

  • Revision History (required-default)
    The editorial history of each AAT record is captured in the Revision History, which identifies when records and terms have been added, edited, merged, etc. The Revision History is included with the licensed files, but hidden from end-users. This information allows implementers to update the AAT in their system with each new release. It allows translating projects to know when the master AAT record has changed in a significant way, which would require their perhaps changing the translation.

Sample Record

Example Example

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Revised 5 March 2023

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