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ULAN: Frequently Asked Questions
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How many terms are in ULAN? Tell me about the scope, contributions, and how to obtain ULAN data.

ULAN is not comprehensive. It grows by thousands of records every year through contributions by the expert user community. A primary goal of the Getty Vocabularies is to become ever more multicultural, multilingual, and inclusive. As of November 2021, ULAN contains 527,259 records and 1,465,992 names (including immediately pending loads). ULAN includes names, relationships, and biographical information for makers and other people and corporate bodies required for the documentation, collection, and discovery of information about art, architecture, and other material culture where the works are of the type collected by art museums and other repositories for visual cultural heritage, or that are architecture.

ULAN and the other 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.

To read more about the scope, and what is excluded from ULAN, see About ULAN.

Contributions: The Getty Vocabularies are compiled resources that grow through contributions from various Getty projects and outside institutions. Contributors include museums, special collections, archives, art libraries, visual resources collections, bibliographic and documentation projects, scholarly research projects, and large translation projects. For more information, read the Contributions pages on this site.

Obtaining the data: The Getty Vocabulary data can be obtained a) on the Getty Web site, free of charge, for searching individual terms and names, b) by accessing XML, relational tables, APIs, and Linked Open Data (LOD); all formats are provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust under the Open Data Commons Attribution License (ODC-By) 1.0. The data is refreshed every month. Read more about ULAN data at Obtaining the data.

What is the definition of "artist" for ULAN?
The scope of ULAN is not restricted to artists, although the main focus of ULAN indeed are makers of visual works, such as artists, architects, craftsmen, studios, patrons (who often have a role in the creative process), and any other person or corporate body associated with the design, production, or otherwise necessary for the discovery of information about the works. Makers in ULAN may be named (e.g., Katsushika Hokusai) or anonymous (e.g., Master of the Aachen Altar). ULAN includes makers of visual works which are ceremonial or utilitarian in nature, even if not classified as art according to traditional Western perceptions. Appellations for creating cultures are included (e.g., unknown Aztec). Also included are repositories of art. Occasionally, donors or sitters may be included if necessary by a contributor and also used by other ULAN users, although these people are not a focus of ULAN and comprise only 0.5 percent of the database.

Entities in ULAN may be either 1) individuals or 2) groups of individuals working together (corporate bodies). The records in the Persons, Artists facet are indeed flagged in ULAN, both through "roles" and by their position in the hierarchical structure of ULAN. Records for makers in ULAN generally represent those involved in the conception or production of visual arts, architecture, and other visual works. Performance artists are included, but performing artists (musicians, dancers, actors, etc.) are out of scope for ULAN. Read more about the scope of ULAN. Below are examples of the roles of makers that you will find in ULAN and further discussion:
















architectural engineer



architectural firm

naive artist


architectural engineer


More about makers: For ULAN, makers are those who have been involved in the design or production of art, architecture, or other visual works that are of the type collected by art museums or other repositories of cultural works. Makers of ceremonial and utilitarian works are also included, not only those who create works classified as art according to Western perceptions. Note that these are visual works of the type collected by art museums. The objects themselves may actually be held by an ethnographic, anthropological or other museum, or owned by a private collector. Included are painters, sculptors, printmakers, photographers, carvers. textile artists, conceptual artists, and a host of other creators. Excluded are professionals who may play one of these roles, but whose products are not visual works of the type collected by museums. For example, a portrait painter is probably creating art, but a house painter is not. Photographers who create still photographs of landscapes, portraits, still lives, or abstract compositions with characteristics of art are included in ULAN; but photographers producing forensic photographs or military photographs are generally not included. Likewise, an engineer involved in the artistic process of designing architecture is an artist; but engineers who design diesel engines and biomedical engineers are typically not included.

Note that the nature of a designated role may be typically artistic in one period, but not in another. A medieval mason was often involved in the creative design process, while a modern bricklayer generally is not. A cabinetmaker in the court of Louis XVI was probably producing high quality furnishings considered art, while the work of a modern craftsman who remodels your kitchen is probably is not considered art.

A creator may be included in ULAN, even if his or her primary or most famous life role was not that of an artist. For example, Thomas Jefferson is best known as a founding father and president of the United States, but he was also a talented, innovative, and influential architect. Conversely, history remembers Leonardo da Vinci primarily as a painter and draftsman, but in his own time he was known as an inventor and military engineer.

Amateur artists may be included in the ULAN if their work is of the type and caliber typically collected by art museums. A criterion for inclusion is the availability of information for all the CORE ULAN fields, including a published source that names or discusses the artist and his work (for example, a journal article or an entry in a museum catalog).

ULAN also includes individuals and corporate bodies who are directly associated with an artist recorded in the ULAN, and who are important to that artist's record. Examples include teachers, patrons, famous spouses or other family members, and associated firms. However, ULAN is not used for complete family trees.

What are anonymous artists and why are they in the ULAN?
Anonymous artists are within the scope of ULAN. If the hand of the anonymous artist has been identified—that is, if his or her oeuvre (body of works) is known and has been attributed to a single artistic personality—it is common to create an identity for the anonymous person. Scholars and museums typically devise an appellation for him or her (e.g., Master of the Morgan Leaf or Monogrammist AEL). In ULAN records, his deduced locus of activity, roles, and approximate dates of activity are included. In such cases, the general locus and time frame of activity are known, but the name is uncertain.

Unknown makers, as distinct from anonymous masters, are also included in ULAN. This occurs if the identity of a hand is not established, the maker is often identified as a culture, for example, unknown Maya or unknown Florentine). This designation identifies the culture from which the work originated, not the individual artist. That is, the generic identification does not refer to one identified, if anonymous, individual; but instead the same heading refers to any of hundreds of anonymous, unidentified artistic personalities.

Unidentified named artistic personalities are included in a special facet of ULAN. Users are encouraged to avoid linking to these records, because they are likely to be merged or deleted in time, thus the unique numeric identifier will change (if merged) or disappear (if deleted).

What are "corporate bodies" and why are they in ULAN?
Corporate bodies in ULAN include legally incorporated bodies (e.g., modern architectural firms) and other groups of people working together to collectively create art (e.g., Gobelins Manufactory or the Della Robbia family).

Corporate bodies in ULAN must be organized, identifiable groups of individuals working together in a particular place and within a defined period of time. A workshop may be included in ULAN if the workshop itself is a distinct personality collectively responsible for the creation of art (for example, the 13th-century group of French illuminators, Soissons atelier).

Generic attributions to studios or workshops are outside the scope of ULAN. For example, when a painting is attributed to some unknown hand in the workshop of a known artist (e.g., as might be expressed in an object record as workshop of Raffaello Sanzio), that attribution statement is outside the scope of ULAN. In such cases, workshop of is more properly a qualifier for the attribution to Raffaello Sanzio in an object record.

ULAN also includes repositories of art works, primarily museums and other collections. They are identified through their role.

What are relationships in the ULAN?
Like the AAT, the ULAN includes equivalence, associative, and hierarchical relationships.

  1. Equivalence Relationship. All relationships between names within the same ULAN record are equivalence relationships. In the example below, all names refer to the same fourteenth-century Italian artist.

    Among all the names that refer to a person or corporate body, one name is chosen as the default preferred name. The preferred name in ULAN is the name used most often in recent scholarly literature. If there is an English version of the name, it will be the preferred name. The preferred name is the indexing form of the name; that is, it is listed in inverted order with the last name first, if there is a so-called "last" name. For relatively modern artists who have a last name, the natural order display name may also be included (as in the example below); this is the name appropriate for wall labels and other displays. If an institution wishes to use ULAN as an authority, they may consistently use the ULAN preferred name for the artist.

    Variant or alternate names include variations in spelling, names in other languages, names in natural and inverted order, pseudonyms, nicknames, full names, and former names. Misspellings may appear if they occur in published sources.

  2. Associative Relationship. Associative relationships may exist between and among people and corporate body records in ULAN. For example, an artist may have a student/teacher relationship with his master. Also, corporate bodies and other groups of individuals may be related to single individuals, as a workshop or architectural firm should be related to its members. An architectural firm that has reorganized with new partners may have a relationship with the original firm. In the example below, relationships with Albrecht Dürer's teachers and other people are recorded.

  3. Hierarchical Relationship. There may be hierarchical relationships between corporate bodies in the ULAN. Corporate bodies may have hierarchical administrative structures, and these hierarchical relationships are recorded by making separate ULAN records that are linked. For example, Gobelins Marquetry Studio is a part of Gobelins Furniture Manufactory, which in turn is part of the broad Gobelins craftsmens factory. In the example below the hierarchical whole/part relationships are indicated with indention.


Where may I find detailed information about fields and editorial policy?

You may consult online extensive discussions of the fields and Editorial Guidelines.

For translation work in the AAT, please see Guidelines for Multilingual Equivalency Work.

A training presentation on Introduction to ULAN gives a basic overview. Additional traning materials on all Getty vocabularies are also available.

Why doesn't ULAN show me works of art by the artists?
In some cases, representative works by the artists are indeed linked in the ULAN record in the Media field. However, comprehensively illustrating the artists' records with works of art is outside the scope of ULAN. Artists may be linked to their works through CONA and other resources about works. As more repositories release their data through LOD, more such links will be possible. Note that ULAN is not an encyclopedia of artists; it is a vocabulary, which focuses on names, relationships, and a limited amount of biographical information.

Why and how do ULAN records and terms change over time?
The ULAN data changes as necessary, with additions of new data and due to changes in usage over time. Changes to existing data are made only as necessary; it is recognized that changes to preferred terms and associative relationships may cause problems for users who rely upon legacy data. The unique subject_ids and unique term_ids, along with the Revision History, allow implementers to keep up with changes.

ULAN records are changed primarily for these reasons:

- Loading contributions from Getty projects or other contributors
- To add new records (called "subjects" in the database) or to add new names to existing subjects.
- To reflect changes in scholarship or usage of names and biographical information.
- To make the data more consistent throughout. Legacy data and incoming contributed datasets occasionally require changes to existing records in order to maintain the logic and consistency of the whole.
- To correct legacy data where names were incorrectly parsed (each name should occupy a separate field, without parentheses) or where different names in a single record do not represent a single artist (e.g., where the name of an identified artist and an anonymous master have been combined in one record, even though scholarship does not agree that they are the same person).
- To correct outright mistakes, either arising from contributed data or from editors' past mistakes.

The ULAN has a very small staff. We rely upon the user community to grow the ULAN, and we welcome users pointing out errors or inconsistencies.

Go to the general F.A.Q. for the Getty Vocabularies.

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Last updated 10 November 2021

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