Review of the year in art cataloging 2010-2011
(prepared for discussion at Cataloging Issues Discussion Group,
Minneapolis joint VRA-ARLIS/NA conference, March 2011)


RDA testing dominated the conversation in description and access. The testing period ended in December 2010 and the results are being analyzed. The U.S. national libraries (LC, NAL, NLM) plan to announce by ALA Annual in June whether and how they will implement RDA. Reports from the ARLIS/NA representative to CC:DA are available on the CAC wiki. Some RDA test libraries plan on continuing with RDA even if LC does not implement. It will be interesting to here the "how" of implementation too, e.g., compatible headings, superimposition, MARC changes, interoperability, mixed records.

Around 10,000 new records for repositories have been added to the Union List of Artist Names (ULAN). As with personal names, the headings are helpful for information but are not necessarily in AACR2 form. Qualifiers are handled differently. Some are in English when AACR2 would call for another language. If you want to look at several examples, search "museum of modern art" or similar common names at


The subject heading "Photography, Artistic" was marked for geographic subdivision. We asked if this was intentional given the long history of use without geographic subdivision, almost as a genre. LC determined that the change was mistaken and changed "Photography, Artistic" back to not subdivided geographically.

A single heading, tagged 151, will be used in LCSH for those National Trust properties in the U.K. that "consist of a large building surrounded by elaborate gardens and/or parklike grounds," e.g., Osterley Park and Sissinghurst (cf. Editorial Meeting summary, Feb. 9, 2011). The National Trust's website will be used as the authority for the preferred terminology for the property. This emphasis on the geographic extent rather than central building seems surprising to me (or maybe that is just my architectural prejudice). The summary does not state if this decision has wider implications for other historic sites.

BISAC subject headings have begun to appear on CIP records from from publishers. Example: 650 _7 $a PHOTOGRAPHY / General $2 bisacsh; 650 _7 $a PHOTOGRAPHY / Commercial $2 bisacsh; 650 _7 $a PHOTOGRAPHY / Reference $2 bisacsh [LCCN 2011000202]

Walls or lines, e.g., Great Wall of China, Siegfried Line, will henceforth be established as 151, consistent with other military installations. Some of these had been tagged 150.

"Artist files" was rejected for LCSH because it was thought that it would set precedent for headings of the type "[Class of person] files." It was suggested that headings such as "Art [style, time, place] – Sources" or "Art archives" or "[personal name] – Sources" could be used as warranted. While I am sympathetic about not wanting to establish precedence, this heading is widely used in art libraries, perhaps most in museum libraries. It could come up again in the discussion on art genre/form terms.

"Popeye (Fictitious character) in art" was rejected for LCSH because "Popeye is a cartoon character and is thus intrinsically artistic." (cf. Editorial Meeting summary, Dec. 15, 2010). Libby Dechman, now the art subject specialist in the LC Policy and Standards Division, sent a message to ARLIS-L about the basic principle of not modifying, qualifying, or subdividing a heading when it would be redundant to the inherent nature of the heading.

Literature on Chinese artists does not often use the terminology "Catalogues raisonnés" and catalogers have not used the subdivision much. Following discussion on ARLIS-L, it was noted that searches on "quanji" or "全集" could yield desirable results, especially in combination with an artist's name, since the term is often used for comprehensive surveys of an artist's oeuvre. The term is also used for other comprehensive surveys.

Some subject headings that seem to be needed: Relational aesthetics; "Blurb" books (not quite the same as self-published or vanity press when used by artist); Reception (seemed to be a hot topic at CAA but is not represented for reception of art in LCSH).


Installation art is ubiquitous and the term is widely, and ambiguously, used in the literature. It was suggested by Faye Leibowitz of Pitt that we could use a subclass of N for installation art. It seems to me that the numbers in N that we already use serve quite well and that it would be difficult to separate those things that should be in the new subclass from what is happening these days in contemporary art. I asked those in CAC and got one response, agreeing that "installation art" was used ambiguously and noting that the confusion could be exacerbated by "installation of art in museums," particularly big works.


VRA Core is now officially hosted on the LC page of metadata standards.


The Frick Art Reference Library, long a contributor of NACO records, is now a participant in the BIBCO and e-CIP programs.

More reports and information on the Cataloging Advisory Committee wiki -- -- and at

Notes compiled by Sherman Clarke

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