What are Getty Vocabularies?
The Art & Architecture Thesaurus ® (AAT), Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names ® (TGN), Union List of Artist Names ® (ULAN), Cultural Objects Name Authority ® (CONA), and Getty Iconography Authority ™(IA) are structured resources for the visual arts domain, including art, architecture, decorative arts, other cultural works, archival materials, visual surrogates, and art conservation. They are available in online displays and in various release formats. Compliant with international standards for structured and controlled vocabularies, they provide authoritative information for catalogers, researchers, and data providers. Getty Vocabularies contain coreferences to other resources where topics overlap. However, they are unique in their global coverage of the defined domain, in citing published sources and contributors, in allowing interconnections among historical and current information, in accommodating the sometimes debated and ambiguous nature of art historical information, and in allowing complex relationships within and between Vocabularies. Thus they are not simple 'value vocabularies'; they are also rich 'knowledge bases' in themselves.

Is it possible to obtain and use Getty Vocabulary data?
Getty Vocabularies may be used and reused under the Open Data Commons Attribution License (ODC-By) 1.0. They are intended to support research and cataloging efforts. Getty Vocabularies are made available in online displays accessed via Web search interfaces. Click to see the search screens: AAT, TGN, ULAN, CONA, and IA. The Vocabulary data is also released in several formats: AAT, TGN, and ULAN are available as as Linked Open Data and in XML, relational tables, and Web services APIs. CONA and IA are available via Web services. Please find more information at the Download Center. Also see the Getty Vocabularies SPARQL End Point and the Open Refine Reconciliation Service.

What are the scope and purpose of Getty Vocabularies?
Getty Vocabularies contain structured terminology for art, architecture, decorative arts, archival materials, visual surrogates, art conservation, and bibliographic materials. Compliant with international standards, they provide authoritative information for catalogers, researchers, and data providers. They contain coreferences to other resources where topics overlap.

    Scope: The domain of the Getty Vocabularies is the visual arts. Getty Vocabularies are unique in their global coverage of the defined domain, in citing published sources and contributors and their preferences, in allowing interconnections among historical and current information, in accommodating the sometimes debated and ambiguous nature of art historical information, and in allowing complex relationships within and between Vocabularies. That is, they are not simple 'value vocabularies'; they are also rich 'knowledge bases' in themselves. The scope of each Getty Vocabulary is clearly defined, including what is included and what is excluded.

    Please click to read about Scope: Scope of AAT; Scope of TGN; Scope of ULAN; Scope of CONA; Scope of IA.

    Purpose: Getty Vocabularies are used for several purposes:

  • 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, as search assistants to enhance end-user access to online resources. These users may utilize 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.

  • Other: Other uses may be as a target for enriching free-text descriptions of cultural objects; and as a pivot vocabulary for coreferencing (interlinking) other art vocabularies.

What is the history of Getty Vocabularies?
Getty was a trailblazer in committing resources to standards and vocabularies for art information beginning in the 1970s-1980s. This work was informed by the work of TAU, Thesaurus Artis Universalis, of the Comité International d'Histoire de l'Art (CIHA). In this work, Getty has always engaged disparate communities, including visual resources institutions, museums, libraries, special collections, archives, and scholars. Under Getty leadership, these communities worked together to reach consensus on what was best cataloging practice and what were the best models for art Vocabularies for the purposes of cataloging, research and discovery, and providing knowledge bases containing controlled and structured terminology. The Getty Vocabularies have been compliant with ISO and NISO standards for controlled and structured vocabularies from their inception.

Over the years, the Getty Vocabularies have changed with the requirements of our core community, and in order to remain relevant and leaders in the realms of both content and technology. Getty partners with the international visual arts information community to make the Vocabularies ever more multilingual, multicultural, and inclusive. Working with a small editorial staff and technical team at Getty and consultants, the Vocabularies grow through contributions from over 350 institutions, consortia, scholarly projects, and scholars globally. Click to learn about the International Terminology Working Group (ITWG), which meets every several years to discuss Getty Vocabularies and related issues.

For more information about the history of the Getty Vocabularies, please see the following: History of AAT; History of TGN; History of ULAN; History of CONA; History of IA.

What is the mission of the Getty Vocabulary Program?
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.

A primary goal of the Getty Vocabulary Program 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.

Getty Vocabulary Program: What do we do?
Getty Vocabularies are created, compiled, and disseminated by the Getty Vocabulary Program in the Getty Research Institute, along with our technical team at Getty Digital. The Vocabularies grow through contributions from the expert user community and online open resources. Getty Vocabularies support the mission of the Getty Research Institute, to aid scholarly research and discovery. Intended for cataloging and retrieval, with terminology, links, and rich contextual data, Getty Vocabularies provide a powerful conduit for research and discovery for the linked environment and digital art history. Through editorial, cataloging, and usage guidelines for the Getty Vocabularies, and with CDWA, a set of guidelines for the description of art, architecture, and other cultural works, Getty plays a leadership role in the visual arts community. Getty is active in the standards communities of ISO and NISO. Getty has worked to reach consensus with the broader art history community, and provides guidelines for best practice and practical examples of usage of the Getty Vocabularies and related standards. For more information about our work, please see the Overview of Our Work document.

Currently, Patricia Harpring is Managing Editor of the Getty Vocabulary Program in the Research and Knowledge Creation section of the Getty Research Institute, under the leadership of Nancy Um, Associate Director, Research and Knowledge Creation. Vocabulary editors are Jonathan Ward, Robin Johnson, and Antonio Beecroft. The technical team at Getty Digital includes Lily Pregill, David Newbury, and Gregg Garcia, among others. Consultants include Ontotext, among others.

Why isn't the term I need in the Vocabularies?
Could you have missed the term when doing your search? If you are accessing the data online, please check the guidelines for searching the How to Use AAT, How to Use ULAN, How to Use TGN, How to Use CONA, and How to Use IA. If you still cannot find the term, maybe it has not yet been contributed. Getty Vocabularies are compilations from contributors; the Vocabularies are not comprehensive. Or maybe your term was out of scope. The scope of the Getty Vocabularies covers artists, places, artworks, iconography, and other topics related to the visual arts and material culture, from antiquity to the present. Read about Scope: Scope of AAT; Scope of TGN; Scope of ULAN; Scope of CONA; Scope of IA.

Consider adding the term you need. Getty Vocabularies are living resources that grow through contributions from cataloging and documentation institutions, projects, scholars, and other users. To contribute, please see Contribute to the Getty Vocabularies.

Is there a "correct" term for my concept in the Vocabulary record?
There is no single "correct" term for a concept. While the Getty Vocabularies are authoritative because sources and contributors are carefully chosen and cited, the Vocabularies are not "authoritarian" by design. In many Getty Vocabulary records, synonyms and variant names refer to the same concept. The term appropriate for that concept in the context of your work may vary. Preferences according to language, part of speech, current and historical usage, usage in sources, and usage by contributors are flagged in each Vocabulary record. Choose the term that is most appropriate for your use.

However, many users may wish to know which is the default term, analogous to an "Authorized Heading" in bibliographic cataloging. If you wish to control terminology with Getty Vocabularies, you could consistently use the "record preferred" term in each record. See an example for steel engravings in AAT. The "record preferred" term appears in results list and at the top of the Names of a full record display on the Getty Web site. This is the name or plural noun most often used for the concept in scholarly literature in the English language. Other terms in the record are also flagged, including the singular form of the term, the term in other languages, the owning repository's preferred title, etc. You could consistently choose one of those flagged terms instead.

Learn about the data in each vocabulary record at About the AAT, About the ULAN, About the TGN, and About CONA and IA.

Who contributes to the Getty Vocabularies?
Contributors are typically Getty projects, museums, art libraries, archives, bibliographic and documentation projects, visual resources collections, and scholars. See the online list of Contributors. Some recent and historical contributors to the Getty Vocabularies include the Getty Research Institute Special Collections, Library, Florentine Codex Initiative, and other projects; the Getty Conservation Institute; and the J. Paul Getty Museum. Other recent and major contributors include the Netherlands Institute for Art History (RKD); Academia Sinica of Taiwan; the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin Preussischer Kulturbesitz; the Collaborative Vocabulary of Arts and Architecture, Brazil (CVAA-BR); the Built Works Registry (BWR); National Museum of Women in the Arts; Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna; Israel Museum Jerusalem; Museum of Modern Art, New York (MoMA); Museu de Arte de São Paulo, Brazil; Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo; Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (Tobunken); Centro de Documentación de Bienes Patrimoniales, Servicio Nacional del Patrimonio Cultural, Ministerio de las Culturas las Artes y el Patrimonio, Santiago, Chile; the Canadian Heritage Information Network (CHIN); Réseau canadien d'information sur le patrimoine; Scientific/Academic Library Network Working Group for AAT (Anet); Belgian Initiative to Broaden the Network for the French Translation of the Art and Architecture Thesaurus (BEINFRAT); 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; European Fashion Heritage Association; 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; Snite Museum at University of Notre Dame (Indiana). To learn about contributing, click Contribute to the Getty Vocabularies.

What are the sources of information for Getty Vocabularies?
Sources may differ for various data elements or various topics. Sources are recommended in the Editorial Guidelines. Recommendations include scholarly articles and books, repository usage, standard general reference resources such as encyclopedia or dictionaries, and other authoritative sources. Additional sources may include original archival documents or signatures and inscriptions on art objects. Common usage among users or sources is also warrant for inclusion of a term. For recommended sources and other editorial rules see Editorial Guidelines.

How often is Getty Vocabulary information updated? How long between contribution and publication?
Updates: Information in the Getty Vocabularies is constantly augmented, updated, or added as new records. Several thousand records are added or edited in each Vocabulary annually; thus developers and other users are encouraged to ensure their data is current. The online data in Web search is refreshed every month. Other release formats are updated periodically throughout the year. Candidate terms, which are terms contributed but not yet vetted by GVP, are available only to authorized contributors; you may access from the online contribution form, even if you contributed via another format.

Contributions timeline: The turnaround time for contributions is dependent upon various factors, including how closely the contributor has followed the editorial guidelines and the status of editorial priorities and technical support available at the Getty during a given period. The workflow of contributions includes the following: Contribution is proposed, accepted by Getty, and Letter of Agreement is signed; contribution is delivered to Getty in spreadsheet, XML, or via the online contribution form; contribution is preprocessed for normalization, reconciliation, and format; it is transformed to the XML format for loading in VCS (our current editorial system); contribution is loaded; contribution is vetted and processed in VCS; contribution is published with the monthly Web publication and other periodic releases. See Quick Reference Guide for Contributions.

What topics are currently being developed in the Vocabularies?
Development in AAT, TGN, ULAN, CONA, and IA focuses on increasing the multilingual, multicultural, and inclusive coverage of each Vocabulary. Please see Getty Vocabularies: Issues Surrounding Diversity and Inclusion. Coreferences and linking to other resources is also a priority. Additional news and recently added records are discussed at Getty Vocabularies News. Learn more about the content and current development of each vocabulary at About the AAT, About the ULAN, About the TGN, and About CONA and IA.

Do the releases of Getty Vocabularies contain all available data from the Vocabularies?
The displays for the online Web search browsers do not display fields intended only for indexing or retrieval; also, the revision history for the records is not included in this release. For LOD, XML, Relational Tables, and APIs, 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. Please examine each release to determine if the data included meets your needs.

Are there diacritics and non-Roman characters in the Vocabulary data?
Names and other information in Getty Vocabularies is released as Unicode. All non-Roman characters and diacritics available in Unicode may be included. For the legacy Getty Vocabulary data releases, special codes were used to represent diacritics. If you have an old release of the data, you can consult Diacritic Codes in the Getty Vocabularies to translate the codes.

How may I cite the Vocabularies in MARC? How may I cite the Vocabularies under the ODC-By license?

    MARC references MARC Bibliographic standard for citing Getty Vocabulary terms.
    Include the descriptor or another term in the vocabulary record, citing the vocabulary as the source. In the example below, AAT terms are used to index the GRI Special Collections finding aid for the Harald Szeemann papers, 1800-2011, bulk 1949-2005.

    655 _7 |a Posters |z United States |y 20th century. |2 aat

    655 _7 |a Self-portraits |z United States |y 20th century. |2 aat

    655 _7 |a Still lifes |z United States |y 20th century. |2 aat

    655 _7 |a Videotapes |z United States |y 20th century. |2 aat

    655 _7 |a Born digital |2 aat

    MARC Standard format to include the unique subject_id of the Getty vocabulary record
    To ensure accuracy and maintaining up-to-date links as the vocabulary data changes over time, in addition to listing the vocabulary term, it is a good idea to cite the unique identifier of the Getty vocabulary record, if possible. Please consult instructions regarding the formulation of URIs (Uniform Resource Identifiers) for Getty vocabulary records.

    The MARC standard prefers using the full URI in the $0 subfield (which also means that no MARC organization code is required, as the source is identified in the domain of the Getty Vocabularies URI).*

    Below is an example of using the $0 containing the AAT term URI with the 655 field from the Frick Art Reference Library.

    655 _7 Reproductions.|2 aat |0 http://vocab.getty.edu/aat/300015643

    655 _7 Paintings (visual works)|2 aat |0 http://vocab.getty.edu/aat/300033618

    *For more see MARC documentation:

    See Authority record control number or standard number. Subfield $0 contains the system control number of the related authority or classification record, or a standard identifier such as an International Standard Name Identifier (ISNI). These identifiers may be in the form of text or a URI. If the identifier is text, the control number or identifier is preceded by the appropriate MARC Organization code (for a related authority record) or the Standard Identifier source code (for a standard identifier scheme), enclosed in parentheses. When the identifier is given in the form of a Web retrieval protocol, e.g., HTTP URI, no preceding parenthetical is used.

    See MARC Code List for Organizations for a listing of organization codes, Subject Heading and Term Source Codes, and Standard Identifier Source Codes for code systems for standard identifiers. Subfield $0 is repeatable for different control numbers or identifiers.

The Art & Architecture Thesaurus® (AAT), the Union List of Artists Names ® (ULAN), the Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names® (TGN), the Cultural Objects Name Authority® (CONA), and the Getty Iconography Authority (IA) are provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust under the Open Data Commons Attribution License (ODC-By) 1.0.

Updated 6 June 2023