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3. Editorial Rules, continued







Included in this chapter







Event Type



Terminology referring to a critical event, activity, state or status, or situation in the person's life or the corporate body's history. Events must be accompanied by a date or location.



Values are controlled by the Events List. Each event entry in the controlled Event List comprises a numeric code and a term.






The Events fields index important life events or status for the person or corporate body, not to provide a complete biography. An event must always be accompanied by a place and/or a date.

  • Event may be used when Birth and Death Dates or Birth and Death Places are inadequate for a particular person or corporate body. For example, for a person, Event may record the "event" active with a place name or with dates, as when the locus of activity differs from the nationality, when an artist was active only late in life (e.g., for Grandma Moses), or when his or her birth date is unknown (and only dates of activity are known). The Events field may include a limited number of other important activities and events having to do with the career or life of the artist (e.g., when the Birth Date is unknown, the event baptism may be indexed).



RULES for Event Type



Minimum requirements for Event Type
List an event when necessary. Caveat: Index only those important events described below. Do not use the Event fields when the Role and its Dates, the Date fields on Names, or Associative Relationships fields may be used instead

  • If Event Type is necessary, link to terms referring to the activity or event as appropriate.



Uncertain Events
If the event is being listed because the birth and death dates are uncertain, explain the uncertainty in the Display Date for the Event Type and in the Display Biography as necessary.

      • Examples
      • Display Biography: English artist, probably active mid-16th century
        Birth Date: 1500 Death Date: 1599
        Event Type: active
        Display Date: probably active mid-16th century
        Start Date: 1530 End Date: 1570

  • Index only important events. Less important events may be mentioned in the Descriptive Note, but do not require indexing.



Definitions of Event Types
Apply Event Type terms according to the definitions below.

  • Avoid redundant links. In only in rare exceptions you may use the same Event Type multiple times for the same person or corporate body. Exceptions: In the example below, Le Corbusier's life warranted using multiple active roles and multiple links to Switzerland.

      • Example
        [for Le Corbusier, an exception requiring redundant links]





  • Do not include self-evident information. Do not include Event Types, places, or dates that are obvious. For example, do not include the Event Type active and dates or place of activity for artists for whom this information is ordinary, i.e., they were active for most of their adult life and in the places already represented in Nationality or Birth and Death Place.

   »List of Event Types:



    • miscellaneous
      Used only for problematic data loads.








    • In lieu of birth and death dates
      Use the following generally to record dates when precise dates of birth and death are unknown (you must still also index estimated dates of birth and death; see 3.5 Biographical Information). Caveat: Note that you may use the following Event Types only when the dates or place are not obvious from other fields. For roles that stand in lieu of birth and death dates (e.g., master), use the Role field.



For dates or places of artistic activity, if necessary. Refers to artistic activity only. For other cases, use flourished.



For dates or places when an artist or corporate body was first mentioned in documentation, if necessary.



For dates or places associated with the artist or corporate body, if necessary, and only when the term active does not apply because artistic activity did not take place.



For the date when a person was baptized, used when the actual date of birth is unknown.



For the date when a person was buried, used when the actual date of death is unknown.



For dates when an artist's work was exhibited, generally used only when life dates are unknown.


commission granted

For documented dates of an artist's receipt of a commission, generally used only when life dates are unknown. In rare cases, it may otherwise be used for extraordinarily important commissions.



For dates of an artist's marriage, generally only when life dates are unknown. If the spouse is in ULAN, do not use this Event Type; instead make the link in Associative Relationships (see 3.6).



For dates when a clergyman was ordained, generally used only when life dates are unknown




    • Location
      Most often used for the place, generally a city, in which a corporate body is located. If you use event location, you must include a place, but date is typically not necessary. To refer specifically to the founding location of a corporate body (as when it was founded in one place and dissolved in another), use the Birth Place instead. For persons, use the Event Type flourished or active instead of location.



For the location of a corporate body.



      • Example
        [for Adler and Sullivan]



    • Changing national affiliations
      Use to record locations other than places of birth and death. Dates may also be included. Do not use these Event Types if the information is evident in other fields (e.g., do not use the Event Type citizenship if it simply duplicates the primary Nationality of the person).



For the new place of citizenship and dates.



For the new place of naturalized citizenship and dates.



For the new place where a corporate body has relocated and dates. May also be used for a person when immigration is not appropriate.



For the new place where a person has immigrated and dates.



    • Critical professional events
      This short list of critical professional Event Types may be used, even when life dates are known. The place and dates for the event must be included. You may name the specific school, prize, or honor in the Display Date. For professional roles, use the Role field.



For the place, dates, and school (in Display Date) of the artist's education.


participated in competition

For the place, dates, and name of a competition (in Display Date); use only for pivotal and important competitions.


winner of contest/prize

For the place, dates, and name of a prize (in Display Date); use only for pivotal and important prizes.



For dates when a ruler began his or her reign; this Event Type may be used even when life dates are known.


honor/position received

For the place, dates, and name of an honor (in Display Date); use only for pivotal and important honors. Do not use this Event Type if you can index the honor or position by using Role instead (see 3.7 Biographical Information).


Adding new Event Type terms
All of the necessary Event Type terms should already be included in the controlled list. If you feel that you wish to add another Event Type term to this list, consult with your supervisor.





Preferred Flag for Event


Flag indicating whether or not the Event Type is preferred among the list of events in this subject record.


The flags are controlled by a pick list in VCS: P - Preferred, N - Non-Preferred


If there is one or more Event Types, a preferred Event Type must be flagged.


The first Event Type is automatically flagged "preferred" by the system. If this is not correct, change the Preferred Flag accordingly.






Sequence Number


The Display Order number (or Sort Order number), indicating the sequence of the Event Type in relation to the other Events of a subject record.


System generated, but the numbers may be changed by the editor. Values begin with 1 and are numbered sequentially; there is no upper limit imposed by the system.



  • If there is more than one Event Type, number them in sequence. Do not skip numbers.

  • The Event Type in sequence number 1 must be the Preferred Event Type.

  • Arrange the Events in order of importance from a researcher's point of view. If chronology is an issue, place Current Events before Historical ones.






Event Place


A link to the geographic location applicable to the Event Type, and a Note in which to express ambiguity or nuance as necessary.



  • 1. Event Place Name: A link to the geographic place associated with the event.

  • 2. Event Place Note: A free text to allow expression of ambiguity, nuance, or other information required to clarify the Event Place.


Terminology for the Place field is drawn from a controlled Place List comprising a numeric code and a word or phrase. This place name list is coordinated with corresponding records in TGN.




Minimum requirements
If appropriate based on the definitions of the Event Types above, and if known from an authoritative source, record the place name appropriate for the Event Type.

      • Example



  • Do not record places of birth and death here. For the Birth and Death Places for a person, see 3.5 Biographical Information.

  • Do not make redundant links. Do not add more than one Event Type for the same Place, unless absolutely necessary. For example, you need not state that an artist was active and born in or baptized in the same city. Linking the place once is generally enough.


Uncertain places
If sources disagree about the place, prefer the most recent authoritative source. If you cannot resolve the question regarding the place, omit the place.


Historical names
If the artist was active (or another Event Type applies) in a city for which the name has since changed, index the Place with the modern name rather than the historical name, because the historical city names are not in the Place List. To explain such name discrepancies, use the Event Place Note, the Descriptive Note, or the Display Date for Event Type (as appropriate).

  • Exception: The names of historical nations are generally in the Place List. Link to the historical name when possible (see Flanders, historical in the example below).

      • Example


Adding new Places to the Place List
Most necessary place names for Events should already be in the Place list. If you feel you need to add a new Place to the Place list, try looking for a synonym. Consult TGN to find synonyms. If you still feel you must add one, consult with your supervisor and be sure you are trained to properly add a place before doing so. Place names should be derived from TGN; if it is not already in TGN, you must add it there too.

  • Caveat: Note that there are many homographs in the Place List. In some cases, a city and its province may have the same name. Be absolutely certain that you link to the correct place.


Event Place Note
Where necessary for clarity, use the Note field to explain uncertainty or ambiguity regarding the Event Place. For example if it is uncertain if the Event happened in the place, you could add a qualifying word, such as probably. (As always, base this type of observation on authoritative sources, not the cataloger's lack of knowledge.) To record an address for a corporate body, use the Event Type location and put the address in the Note. Do not include addresses for people.






Dates for Events


Dates delimiting the time period when the event or activity took place, or when the state, status, or situation existed.



  • 1. Display Date: A free-text field to express nuances of the date to the user; it is indexed by the two indexing fields representing the Start and End Dates implied in the free-text date.

  • 2. Start Date: The exact or estimated earliest year implied in the Display Date.

  • 3. End Date: The exact of estimated latest year implied in the Display Date.

      • Example
        [from the VCS Subject Edit window for Hendrik Voogd]


Display Date is a free-text field; values may be any ASCII character; no special characters or diacritics are allowed; diacritics must be expressed according to the codes in Appendix A.

  • Start Date and End Date must contain valid years, validated by VCS.


The dates should be determined using the same standard reference sources that supply other information about the Event.


The Display Date for the Event Type usually refers to a date range, however, it may sometimes contain notes that do not explicitly make reference to a date. In such cases, the note should implicitly refer to a date or datable condition or event, because you are required to include a Start Date and End Date with every Display Date.

  • Display dates are indexed with Start Date and End Date. Start and End Dates are controlled by special formatting; dates BCE are represented by negative numbers.



  • Include dates as indicated for the definitions of various Event Types above.

  • If you enter data in any of the three date fields, you must enter data in ALL three of the fields.


Explaining the Event
Use the Display Date to explain an Event, as in the example below, where the Display Date explains which prize was won by the artist. Given that Start and End Dates are required if Display Date is used, estimate appropriate dates for this Event (in this case, the winner holds the Prix de Rome for four years).

      • Example


Dates of activity
The Event fields are most often used to record dates of activity (active dates). If the birth and death dates are uncertain, and only dates of activity were expressed in Display Biography, an estimated life-span should have been indicated in the Birth Date and Death Date fields. However, you may index the span of activity in Event Display Date, Start and End Dates.

  • If birth and death dates are known, do not record Dates of Activity unless there is something unusual about their activity, as when an artist did not begin a career as an artist until late in life (e.g., Grandma Moses) or when an artist changed geographic location for a significant portion of their life.

      • Example
        [for Grandma Moses]
      • Display Biography: American painter, 1860-1961, active from 1930s
        Birth Date: 1860 Death Date: 1961
        Event Type: active
        Display Date: she began painting late in life
        Earliest: 1930 Latest: 1961


Display Date

  • State only what is known
    If a precise span of dates is known, state it. Where ambiguity exists, use natural word order to clearly state what is known (and only what is known; do not surmise). Follow the style of existing display dates.

      • Example
      • Event Type: active
        Place: Rome (Roma province, Lazio, Italy)
        Display Date: ca. 1675-1677
        Start Date: 1665 End Date: 1677
  • Be objective
    Express all information in a neutral tone. Do not write from a subjective or biased point of view, even if your source expresses a fact in a subjective way. See the discussion of this topic in chapter 3.4 Descriptive Note.

  • Punctuation
    Do not use full sentences; do not end the display date with a period or any other punctuation. If the Display Date could be ambiguous because it contains more than one phrase, separate the phrases with a semi-colon for clarity.

  • Capitalization and abbreviation
    Do not capitalize words other than proper nouns or period names. Avoid abbreviations, except ca. (for circa), the numbers in century or dynasty designations (e.g., 17th century), and BCE and CE.

  • Calendar in Display Date
    Display Dates should generally be listed by reference to years in the proleptic Gregorian calendar, which is the calendar produced by extending the Gregorian calendar to dates preceding its official introduction.

  • Span of years
    If a precisely delimited span of dates is applicable, list the beginning year of the span first, followed by the end of the span, with the years separated by a hyphen. Include all digits for both years in a span; for example, with four-digit years, do not abbreviate the second year (e.g., 1921-1924, not 1921-24).

    • Caveat: Do not state specific dates in the Display Date if there is broadly defined information, ambiguity, or uncertainty. For example, instead of 1500-1599, use 16th century if that is what is meant.


  • BCE in Display Dates
    Dates before the year 1 in the proleptic Gregorian calendar should be indicated as Before Common Era, which should be abbreviated BCE. Dates BCE should be indexed with negative numbers in Start and End Dates (see below).

  • Uncertain dates
    If a date is uncertain, use a broad or vague designation, in accordance with common art historical practice.

  • Acceptable scope of information in the Display Date
    Ideally, the display date should refer, explicitly or implicitly, to a time period or date associated with the Event Type. In some cases, Display Date may be used to record unusual or important information about the Event (such as the name of a prize or award). However, dates should be implicit because if you record a Display Date, Start and End Dates are required.


Start Date and End Date

  • Delimiting the span
    Record years that delimit the span of time when the Event happened, as referenced in the Display Date. If the years are uncertain (as when a qualifier such as ca. is used in the Event display date), calculate approximate years to be used for Start and End Dates for indexing. These indexing dates should represent the broadest possible span of time represented by the display date; it is better to delimit the span too broadly than too narrowly.

    • Start Date must represent a year earlier than the End Date. In rare cases, the start date and end date may be the same year.
  • Do not use punctuation
    Express years without commas or other punctuation. An exception is the hyphen, which is used to express negative numbers (dates BCE).

  • Gregorian calendar
    Dates must be expressed in the proleptic Gregorian calendar, which is the Gregorian calendar projected back in time before it came into existence.

  • Lifelong Events
    For an Event that describes a role or characteristic that lasted until the end of the artist's life (e.g., citizenship), use the Death Date as the End Date.

  • Month and day
    If a specific month and day are referenced in the Display Date, index with the year in Start and End Dates. For the display date, the preferred syntax is day, month, year with no punctuation. The alternative syntax - month, day, comma, year - is found in many legacy records. Do not bother editing records that already contain this syntax, except in order to make the record consistent when you are editing the record.

  • Dates BCE
    Express dates BCE by negative numbers, using a hyphen before the number. Do not use commas or any other punctuation.

  • Estimating Start and End Dates
    Use available information to estimate Start and End Dates. In many cases, the years will be approximate. When in doubt, it is better to estimate too broad a span rather than too narrow a span. See the Date Authority in Appendix B for approximate dates of historic events and entities.

Last updated 15 August 2023
Document is subject to frequent revisions


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