The WPI’s Cataloguing and Archiving Tool (CAT) is a visionary platform, developed by a German tech team in close collaboration with WPI researchers. CAT enables dynamic digital publications and the aggregation of digitized art historical data on an unprecedented scale, paving the way for a new era of collaboration and accessibility in art historical scholarship and research.
The basis of CAT is a relational database system, which allows the researcher to store structured information about art historical data points and archival resources. This relational data model facilitates granular and precise recordings. The core information—such as the provenance, exhibition history and literature references—is enriched with semantic data and indexes that allow for powerful classification, organization and search capabilities.
Instead of using free-form text, CAT encourages the use of controlled vocabulary where possible, which transforms language into a finite system of indexed terms and semantic correctness. One concrete example is the incorporation of authoritative thesauri established by the Getty, such as the Union List of Artists Names (ULAN) and the Art & Architecture Thesaurus (AAT).
Adopting a standard protocol of description will ultimately enable the seamless and accurate exchange of data from external sources and decrease the margin of error in correctly identifying an individual work of art. By leveraging a standardized relational data model and authoritative vocabularies, CAT ensures that our individual catalogue raisonne projects will not be siloed, rendered obsolete, or hindered by inconsistencies in the future. Instead, researchers will be able to conduct complex searches, as well as discover and generate meaningful links to digitized material hosted by many different institutions.