The WPI is building an integrated Cataloguing and Archiving Tool (CAT) that will enable dynamic digital publications and the aggregation of digitized art historical data on an unprecedented scale. Developed in consultation with experienced researchers working on catalogue raisonnés for the WPI, CAT provides a consistent foundation, on top of which art historians will be able to make their work accessible across different platforms and disciplines.
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. Our 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, our system 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 enables the seamless and accurate exchange of data from external sources and decreases the margin of error in correctly identifying an individual work of art. By leveraging a standardized relational data model and authoritative vocabularies, those who use CAT can be assured that their work will not be siloed, rendered obsolete, or hindered by inconsistencies in the future. Rather, researchers will find that they are able to conduct complex searches, as well as discover and generate meaningful links to digitized material hosted by many different institutions.
The WPI’s CAT is a visionary tech platform, endowed with the expertise and the resources to usher in a new era of collaboration and accessibility in art historical scholarship and research.