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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 grows by thousands of records every year through contributions by the expert user community. As of March 2023, ULAN contains 525,738 records and 1,473,930 names (terms). ULAN is not comprehensive. Although coverage is multilingual, multicultural, inclusive, and global, the scope of ULAN is tailored to the needs of the Getty Vocabularies' core audience. ULAN includes names, relationships, biography, and other rich data for makers and others required for the documentation of, and meaningful scholarly research and discovery of information about art, architecture, and other visual works. Included in ULAN are records for makers of works that are of the type collected by art museums and similar repositories, makers of architecture, and makers of cultural visual works which are ceremonial or utilitarian in nature, even if not classified as "art" according to traditional Western aesthetics. Within scope are artists, architects, other makers, firms, and studios, both named and anonymous. Also included may be patrons (who often have input in the creative process) and repositories of art. Makers may be named (e.g., Katsushika Hokusai) or anonymous (e.g., Master of the Aachen Altar).

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.

Read more about Scope and Structure of ULAN, including information about what is excluded from ULAN.

Contributions: Getty Vocabularies are compiled resources that grow through contributions from the expert user community comprising various Getty projects and outside institutions; please see our Contributions page. Contributors to the Getty Vocabularies include museums, special collections, visual resources collections, art libraries, archives, bibliographic and documentation projects, large translation projects, and individual experts and scholars. A list of contributors is available on this site.

Obtaining the data: The Getty Vocabulary data can be obtained a) on the Getty Web site, free of charge, for searching and displaying individual records, b) by accessing Linked Open Data (LOD), XML, relational tables, and APIs. Read about Obtaining the data. All formats are provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust under the Open Data Commons Attribution License (ODC-By) 1.0. The data in the online Search is refreshed every month. Other formats are refreshed throughout the year.

What is the definition of "artist"?

An artist is simply someone who makes visual works, not only so-called fine art. In fact, despite the legacy name of ULAN (Union List of Artist Names), ULAN data is inclusive within the realm of visual arts. The scope of ULAN is not restricted to artists according to the traditional Western perspective. The main focus of ULAN indeed is on makers of visual works from all cultures, including artists, architects, craftsmen, designers, studios, patrons (who often have a role in the creative process), and other people or corporate bodies directly associated with the design, production, or otherwise necessary for the discovery of information about the visual arts. Read more about the Scope and Structure of ULAN, including what is excluded from ULAN.

Below are examples of the roles of makers that you will find in ULAN:












wood carver




architectural engineer



architectural firm

basket maker


computer artist


What are anonymous artists and "unknown" designations in ULAN?

Anonymous makers: When the name of the maker is unknown to scholarship, but the hand (stylistic identification) and oeuvre (body of works) are identified by experts, it is common for the anonymous person to be given an appellation by scholars and museums (e.g., Master of the Morgan Leaf or Monogrammist AEL). The appellations, deduced locus of activity, roles, approximate dates of activity, relationships, and other data are included in ULAN.

Unknown makers: These makers are distinct from anonymous masters. An unknown maker is designated when the identity of a hand is not established for the target work, but the maker is identified by a culture (e.g., unknown Maya or unknown Florentine). This designation identifies the culture from which the work originated, not actually tied to an individual artist. To reiterate, it is a generic identification that does not refer to any identified artistic peronality; this same identification may refer to any of hundreds of unidentified artistic personalities. Using such designations is common for art from many periods, many genre, and many subsections of art history where the names of artists are commonly not known.

Unidentified named: Another distinct set of unidentified makers are found in ULAN. These are Unidentified Named artistic personalities. These comprise records for entities having names that are found in an work record or other documentation, but the identity of the person has not yet been firmly established. In order to facilitate cataloging and to resolve the problem of delayed linking in open data, these records are included in a special facet of ULAN. With time, the identities of these entities would ideally be established; perhaps they will be merged with a known artist in ULAN, and their subject_id will change. Users are discouraged from linking to these records, except for those users who are directly documenting the works with which these entities are asscociated.

What are "corporate bodies" in ULAN?

Corporate bodies in ULAN are legally incorporated bodies (e.g., modern architectural firms) as well as other groups of people working together to collectively create art (e.g., Gobelins Manufactory or Della Robbia family). Corporate bodies are organized, identifiable groups of individuals working together in a particular place and within a defined period of time.

A workshop may be included as a corporate body in ULAN if the workshop is a distinct personality that is collectively responsible for the creation of art (for example, the 13th-century group of French illuminators, Soissons atelier). However, generic attributions to workshops or studios 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 a display in an object record as workshop of Raffaello Sanzio), this is an "attribution statement," not a corporate body or otherwise within scope of ULAN. In such cases, the concept workshop of is more properly a qualifier for the attribution to Raffaello Sanzio in the object record. See discussion of this issue in the CONA editorial guidelines, Attribution Qualifier.

What are relationships in the ULAN?

As are all Getty Vocabularies, ULAN is a thesaurus. The defining characteristic of a thesaurus, that which distinguishes it from a flat list of names such as a dictionary, is the network of relationships among its names/terms and concepts. These relationships are semantic relationships, based on logical connections, such as among artists, students, teachers, patrons, or corporate body members. Thesaurus construction standards identify three kinds of relationships, all of which are included in ULAN: Equivalence, Hierarchical, and Associative relationships.

  1. Equivalence Relationship. Multiple names may refer to the same person or corporate body. The relationship between names that represent the same entity in ULAN is the equivalence relationship. Among names that refer to a single ULAN entitiy, one is chosen as the record-preferred name. Other names for the ULAN entity are synonyms, including historical names, variant spellings, longer or abbreviated forms of names, names in other languages, or inverted or natural-order forms of names. Each name in the record (i.e., "subject_id") is identified by its own unique identifier, the "term id." Users may choose or link to any name/term in the record. For example, a museum may wish to link to their locally-preferred name rather than to the ULAN record-preferred name.

    Some users will wish to consistently use the same name for a given person or corporate body in all circumstances. They may choose the Record-preferred name, which is a default name, comprising the inverted form of the name as most often found in English-language sources. For wall labels or texts, they could choose the natural order Display Name form of the record-preferred name. They could also look to language preference flags, preferences on sources, or preferences of a particular contributor to isolate a name consistently. The Library of Congress preferred name, as used in LOC headings, if any, is picked out also by a special flag, the "LC flag" (also called "AACR flag"). In the example below, all names refer to the same 14th-century artist, Bartolomeo Bulgarini.

  2. Associative Relationship. Associative relationships are relationships between people and corporate body records in ULAN, other than hierarchical relationships. For example, an artist may have a student/teacher relationship with their master. People may have a member of relationship to a firm or studio (corporate bodies). Relationships are reciprocal and clearly defined by Relationship Types. In the example below, relationships with Albrecht Dürer's teachers and other people are recorded.

  3. Hierarchical Relationship. The hierarchy in ULAN refers to the method of structuring and displaying the ULAN entities within their broader contexts. You will especially notice whole/part hierarchical relationships between corporate bodies in ULAN. This is indicated with indention in the example below: Gobelins Marquetry Studio is a part of Gobelins Furniture Manufactory, which in turn is part of the broad Gobelins craftsmens factory.


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 training materials on all Getty vocabularies are also available.

Why doesn't ULAN show me works of art by the artists?

ULAN is a structured vocabulary resource that focuses on names, relationships, biography, and other rich information for artists and others. It is outside the scope of ULAN to list all the artists' works. Images of few representative works may be linked via the Media field in ULAN.

Why and how do ULAN records and terms change over time?

The ULAN data changes when necessary with the additions of new data and due to changes in preferences or usage over time. Changes to existing terms and associative relationships are made only when necessary, because it is understood that such changes may cause problems for users who rely upon legacy data. The unique subject_ids and unique term_ids, along with the Revision History, should allow implementers to keep up with changes.

ULAN records are changed primarily for the following reasons:

- Loading contributions and merging records.
- 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 (e.g., 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 erroneously combined in one record without supporting scholarship).
- To correct outright mistakes, either arising from contributed data, errors in loading, or from editor errors.

The ULAN has a very small staff. We rely upon the user community to grow the ULAN. 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 30 March 2023

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