Catalog and Finding Aid Systems: Representative Examples
Questions still working on:
- Experimented with sub-categories; how effective?
When archivists and librarians need to create online information
systems, they often look for examples at institutions similar to
their own repository. It can also be helpful to compare approaches
to describing pictorial materials by looking at a variety of online
systems. This resource list cites representative systems based on
bibliographic catalog records or archival finding aids. The categories
highlight only one feature of each system to help you find systems
that rely on a particular encoding scheme, level of description,
type of material, or type of online database.
Looking at the various approaches can also help you improve practices
appropriate for your own institution. For many additional examples
of catalogs, see the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs
Division reference aid called "Picture
Catalogs Online." For an extensive list of archives and
collaborative projects that implemented the Encoded Archival Description
(EAD) standard, see EAD
Sites Annotated at the EAD Roundtable's Web site.
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 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, movies, sound recordings, and other
media. In addition to item-level records (chiefly published pictures),
there are group and collection-level summaries that link to inventory-level
records for large collections with negatives available only in
& Photographs Online Catalog.
- 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
Separate catalog for pictures
- Harvard University Library. Visual
Information Access (VIA). "A union catalog of visual
resources at Harvard, focusing on artistic and cultural materials.
VIA includes catalog records for objects or images owned, held
or licensed by Harvard." "An overarching access menu,
(MetaLib, SFX, cross catalog searching), allows users to search
across all union catalogs at Harvard and receive an integrated
set of results." Follows a local
metadata scheme based on national standards.
- Canada Library and Archives. Follows Rules
for Archival Description.
400,000 descriptions for photographs, with 10,000 digital
images. Uses Rules for Archival Description, "Graphic
Materials" chapter, and local database system.
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. Follows ISAD
and local database schema.
- 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)."
Includes digital images.
- PALS (a 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 North Carolina
at Chapel Hill. Southern Historical Collection records include
photographs mixed with other materials. Uses Archives, Personal
Papers, and Manuscripts and MARC.
- Item-level, pictorial only
of Michigan, Bentley Library. ImageBank. More than 4,000 records
for individual pictures accompanied by digital images. To provide
context for each image, the records link to the archival finding
aid for the collection that contains the picture.
University of Washington Libraries. American
Indians of the Pacific Northwest Digital Collection. Ca. 2,500
photos and text pages with digital images. Includes a metadata
dictionary for graphic materials, using the Dublin Core.
Degree of cataloging
Library. Western History / Genealogy Dept. Search the Collections.
Of the libraries' 600,000 photos, ca. 100,000 have online descriptions
with digital images.
Historical Society of Nebraska, Prairie Settlement: Nebraska Photographs
and Family Letters. Ca. 3,000 glass negatives from collection
of photos by Solomon Butcher.
Library of Congress,
Prints & Photographs Division, Photochrom Prints. Ca.
5,000 views of places published by the Photoglob company. No subject
headings and most description is from a boilerplate template.
Relies on presence of digital images and keyword access to provide
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). Thesaurus cross references automatically retrieve preferred
terms, so that a search for 'cars' retrieves 'automobiles.'
- Many kinds of 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." The
recommendations for effective data and images are listed in "Contributing
to RLG Cultural Materials."
- Collection-level descriptions in MARC
Archives 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.)
- Item-level and group-level descriptions in Dublin Core
Ca. 630,000 records and images. The National Archives and many
libraries among 25 agencies that contribute still picture records
with digital images. "Contributing
to PictureAustralia" explains how metadata from each
institution is mapped to the Dublin Core.
- Links to separate databases at multiple institutions-
Archival Information Network, British Columbia Photographs Online.
Lists databases at 12 archives, libraries, and museums and 20
online gallery presentations.
- Subject-based themes and special presentations for each
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, provide general and special
indexes, bibliographies, links to related sites, or presentations
of selected images.
Individual collection examples
- 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 (HTML)
Getty Research Institute. Josef
Stendl Furniture Designs.
- Photographs interspersed, but highlighted in a folder-item
list in an appendix (EAD)
Library of Virginia. Records of Richmond, Fredericksburg and
Potomac Railroad. Available via Virginia
- Multilevel description (EAD)
Public Record Office
(UK) Online Catalogue (PROCAT). Atomic Weapons Research
Establishment. Series E1, includes photographs
- Multilevel description: series, with file list (local
Simon Fraser University. Archives
and Records Management Department fonds
Type of collection
- Album with multiple photographers
Louisiana State University. Library. Special Collections. Civil
War Photograph Album.
- Collection assembled by archives, with provenance noted
Smithsonian Institution. Archives of American Art. Photographs
of Artists - Collection One.
- Corporate records, all photos (pdf file)
Heard Museum. Library and Archives. Fred
Harvey Company Photographs.
- Family papers, with a photo series (HTML)
Montana State University. Library. Special Collections Hart
- Government records; photos as a subseries (EAD - verify!)
Wisconsin State Historical Society. Wisconsin.
Office of Transportation Safety: Safety Scrapbooks, 1936-1958.
- Institutional records; photos in parallel series to
text materials (HTML)
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 all photographs or digitized
photographs is also possible.
Hopkins Medical Institution, Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives.
Visual Holdings. Uses a Web site search tool to access inventories
- Many departments at one institution
University Library, Finding Aid Database. More than 500 finding
aids (most encoded with EAD) mention photographs.
Pittsburgh. Offers separate access to pictorial images (ca.
5,000 from 23 collections at 3 cultural heritage institutions),
maps, finding aids, 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
15 contributors. Digital images are embedded within the finding
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
Compiled by Helena Zinkham, Technical Services Section, Prints
& Photographs Division, July 2004.