SPEC Kit 333: Art & Artifact Management  · 99
Library of Congress
Common and Useful Information Elements for Cataloging Pictorial Materials
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“USEFUL” Description of Pictorial Materials
Use a word that identifies the broad type of material, such as “pictures”
The general word for the type of visual material should appear in the description even when
specific media or format terms are also used. Most users ask for pictures using general
vocabulary. Stating the broad “object type” or “work type” early in a description helps
distinguish visual materials from the many other ways that information is expressed, such
as in text, music, maps, or sound recordings.
State the physical media/format and quantity
Photographs, prints, drawings, etc., come in so many shapes and sizes that researchers rely
on designations such as “2,000 photographs: slides” or “1 drawing: 50 x 30 cm” to gauge
the nature of the information. Will the images be hard to view? Will there be clear visual
detail? How many items need to be looked at?
Express the subject and specific work type, media, or genre
Expand on broad work types (e.g., photographs) to provide direct information about subject
content, genres, and specific media (e.g., trees, landscapes, cyanotypes).
Favor names of creators
Mentioning the names of the lithographers, photographers, and other visual creators, even
when they are only partially identified, helps researchers gauge the nature of the visual
information, such as amateur, commercial, corporate, or personal viewpoints.
Undertake rights statements
A rights statement in or linked to the descriptive record, even if the statement says
“unknown,” can simplify a researcher’s choice of which materials to request or reproduce.
Getting copies is often the goal for picture researchers.
Link to digital reproductions
At least selectively, try to show users what the pictures look like. Viewing an image
conveys lots of information beyond what reading a verbal description can accomplish.
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