Catalog and Finding Aid Systems for Pictorial Materials: Representative
When archivists and librarians plan projects to contribute descriptions
of photographs, drawings, prints, and other pictorial materials
to online information systems, they often look for models among
sister institutions. This resource list cites representative systems
according to cataloging characteristics frequently asked about.
The categories highlight only one feature of each system to help
you compare different types of catalogs and finding aids; levels
and depths of description; cataloging (descriptive metadata) standards;
digital image navigation, and encoding schemes. Exploring these
representative systems may also give you ideas about other important
features, such as advising users about ordering reproductions, offering
keyword access or subject headings, and explaining what portion
of your collections are available online.
The selected features are not presented in any particular order,
except that the most popular topic appears first. Question:
Should records for pictures be integrated with catalogs for all
kinds of information resources, or kept separate? Answer:
Both capabilities are needed--integrated access for all media and
the option to limit searches to 'only pictures.' The examples below
illustrate several ways to accomplish that goal.
The systems were selected between 2002 and 2004 to represent a
wide range of current practices in cataloging visual materials,
with an emphasis on libraries and archives. Inclusion in this list
is not an endorsement by the Library of Congress. For many additional
examples of catalogs, see the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs
Division reference aid called "Picture
The Library of Congress does not maintain most of these sites. Users
should direct concerns about these links to their respective site
administrators or webmasters.
Table of Contents
Integrated -- pictures with other media
- American Antiquarian Society,
Online Catalog. Thousands of records for historical prints,
photographs, and ephemera are described in the same catalog used
for books and other non-visual media. Limiting a search to the
department name "Graphic Arts" provides access to only
the pictorial materials.
- Library of Congress, Online
Catalog. More than 100,000 records for pictorial materials
are among the 12 million records representing books, electronic
resources, manuscripts, maps, moving images, sound recordings,
and other materials. The item-level records are chiefly for published
pictures. The collection-level summaries often link to inventory-level
records for large negative collections available only in the Prints
& Photographs Online Catalog to avoid flooding the integrated
catalog with similar records.
- Smithsonian Institution Research
Information System SIRIS has 230,000 descriptions of personal
papers, manuscripts, photographs, oral histories, sound recordings,
films, and organizational records from nine repositories. Over
100,000 scanned images are available online. The catalogs for
books and art inventories are separate databases within SIRIS.
Separate catalogs for pictures
of Congress, Prints & Photographs Online Catalog. PPOC
includes the 100,000 still picture records available in the LC
Online Catalog, plus 4000,000 inventory-level records, chiefly
for items in large collections with negatives. Almost 1 million
digital images are linked to group and item-level records.
- Canada Library and Archives.
400,000 descriptions for photographs, with 10,000 digital
Art. 160,000 entries, with 5,000 digital images. Descriptions
are written mainly in the language of the creator-donor, with
most descriptions in English.
Multiple levels of description
Archives and Records Service, Archives Research Catalog. Covers
3,000 still picture series, including digital image reproductions
of more than 50,000 pictorial items. Search can be limited by
"level" of description. For an example with photographs,
search for "Ansel Adams."
- Collection, series, folder, item
State Records Center and Archives, On-line Catalog. "All
materials are described in a hierarchical manner. This means that
there can be multiple records for individual collections (collection
records, series records, folder records and/or item records)."
- Collection, series, and item
Historical Society, Archie. Use the advanced search feature
and ask for "negatives" and "state street"
to see all three levels of description.
- Different levels of description in different catalogs
Minnesota Historical Society.
- PALS. This statewide
OPAC holds records for collections and groups of photographs.
Resources Database. Holds records for 184,500 photographs,
posters, art, and fine art photographs. 115,000 records have
a corresponding digital image.
Single level of description
University of California,
Berkeley, GLADIS-UCB Library Catalog. Search for "photographs"
limited to the "Bancroft" Library location. When more
information is needed than can fit in catalog entries, the records
link to finding aids in the Online
Archive of California.
University of North Carolina
at Chapel Hill. To see descriptions of manuscript collections
that have photographs, select the catalog's advanced search screen.
Look for "photographs" (as a subject) and "southern
historical collection." The collection-level summary records
usually link directly to online finding aids with additional information.
- Item-level, pictorial only
of Michigan, Bentley Library, ImageBank. More than 4,000 records
for individual pictures accompanied by digital images. To provide
sufficient context for each image, the records link directly to
the archival finding aid for whichever collection contains the
of Washington Libraries, American Indians of the Pacific Northwest
Digital Collection. Ca. 2,500 photos and text pages with digital
Degree of cataloging
Library, Western History / Genealogy Dept., Photography Collection.
Detailed subject notes, numerous subject headings, and dimensions
for the original items indicate full-level cataloging. Ca. 100,000
photographs have online descriptions with digital images.
Historical Society, Visual Resources Database. Descriptive
titles, primary subject headings, and basic media and date information
cover 184,500 photographs, posters, art, and fine art photographs.
115,000 records have a corresponding digital image.
Congress, Prints & Photographs Online Catalog. A search
for photochrom prints of Ireland illustrates characteristics of
inventory-level records: no subject headings, most description
is from a boilerplate template; reliance on the digital image
and keyword access to provide access.
Thesaurus integrated with catalog
University Digital Library, Charles W. Cushman Photograph Collection.
Terms from the Thesaurus for Graphic Materials are part
of the catalog to allow easy access to searching by terms (e.g.,
automobiles) as well as broader terms (vehicles) and any narrower
terms (station wagons). Cross references automatically retrieve
preferred terms (a search for 'cars' retrieves 'automobiles').
Union catalogs (records from many
- Many kinds of description
RLG Cultural Materials.
Includes a wide variety of records and digital images for 225,000
works and 622 groups contributed by more than 30 archives, libraries,
and museums. The recommendations for effective data and images
are listed in "Contributing
to RLG Cultural Materials."
- Collection-level descriptions
Mixed Materials File, via the National Union Catalog of Manuscript
Collections. The OCLC "mixed materials" file for archival
materials has almost 300,000 records. A search for "photographs"
in 2003 yielded almost 25,000 hits. (Additional photographs are
in the OCLC Visual Materials file along with moving images and
records for individually issued items such as posters and prints.)
- Item-level and group-level descriptions
Ca. 630,000 records and images. The National Archives and many
libraries are among 25 agencies that contribute still picture
records with digital images. A search for "sewing" yields
both item and group-level descriptions.
- Links to separate databases at multiple institutions-
Archival Information Network, British Columbia Photographs Online.
Lists databases at 12 archives, libraries, and museums as well
as 20 online gallery presentations.
- Special presentations for each collection
Library of Congress, American
Memory and Global
Gateway. Includes more than 100 collections from more than
25 institutions. All items have digital images. Each collection
has a home page to explain its scope and provide general and special
indexes, bibliographies, links to related sites, or presentations
of selected images.
- Size of collection: small
Utah Historical Society. M.C.
Gigi Photograph Collection (2 folders of photographs)
- Size of collection: large
Duke University. Guide
to the William Gedney Photographs and Writings (49,870 items)
- Photographs interspersed with other media
Getty Research Institute. Josef
Stendl Furniture Designs.
- Multilevel description: series and file list for photographs
Simon Fraser University. Archives
and Records Management Department fonds (F-51-7)
Type of collection
- Assembled by archives, with provenance noted
Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Art. Search Digital Collections.
- Corporate records, all photos
Heard Museum, Library and Archives. Fred
Harvey Company Photograph Collection.
- Family papers, with a photo series
Montana State University, Library, Special Collections. Hart
- Government records, with photos as a subseries
Wisconsin State Historical Society. Wisconsin.
Office of Transportation Safety: Safety Scrapbooks, 1936-1958.
(Search for "safety scrapbooks" to display the finding
- Institutional records, with photos in series parallel
to text materials
Georgia Tech. Inventory
of the Georgia Tech Alumni Association Slide Collection.
Many collections in a single search system
of Vancouver Archives. Has a search system for all records,
including public and private records to the file-level and photographs
to the item-level. Searching for only photographs or digitized
photographs is also possible.
Hopkins Medical Institution, Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives,
Visual Holdings. Uses a Web page links and a Web site search
tool to access inventories of photographs.
- Many departments at one institution
University Library, Finding Aid Database. Search for "photographs"
to explore more than 500 finding aids that mention collections
- Multiple repositories at different institutions
Pittsburgh. Offers separate access to pictorial images (ca.
5,000 from 23 collections at 3 cultural heritage institutions),
maps, finding aids, and text, with many special search features.
Hosted by the University of Pittsburgh, Digital Research Library.
Digital Library, Archival Finding Aids Collection. Searches
4,600 finding aids for documents, including photographs, from
Online Archive of California.
Over 120,000 images (including photographs); 50,000 pages of documents,
letters, and oral histories; and 8,000 guides to collections are
Navigation of images
- Thumbnails with lists of records
- Thumbnail embedded in display of full record
- Fuller size image in separate window
- Grid of thumbnails as result of a search
- Multiple images associated with single catalog record
- Multiple formats of images associated with a single
- Images embedded within a finding aid document
- Portfolio to save selected images
- Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules
- A summary of AACR2 is
available online. Chapter 8 is for "Graphic Materials."
- Usage example: Library
of Virginia. Use the advanced search feature and ask for
the subject portraits and the subject engravings.
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Graphic Materials: Rules for Describing Original
Items and Historical Collections
- Rules for Archival Description
is available online. Chapter 4 covers "Graphic Materials"
and chapter 6 "Architectural and Technical Drawings."
- Usage example: Canada
Library and Archives. Photographs
- Usage example: Archway
Photographic Database. Union catalog for archives throughout
Subject authority files
- Art and Architecture Thesaurus
- Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Thesaurus for Graphic Materials
- Encoded Archival Description
- RLG Cultural
Materials. Includes a variety of records and digital images
for 225,000 works and 622 groups contributed by more than
30 archives, libraries, and museums. "In general RLG
can take whatever you have. Of course we would like to receive
the most complete descriptive record possible, since this
gives the best result when we map your data to the RLG Cultural
Materials data model."
Compiled by Helena Zinkham, Technical Services Section,
Prints & Photographs Division, July 2004.