A.4 Subject Authority
The Subject Authority contains terminology related
to subjects depicted in a work or image (see Chapter
6: Subject and Chapter 9: View Information: View Subject).
The authority should be reserved for iconographical
terminology, including proper names of literary, mythological,
or religious characters or themes, historical events
and themes, and any other terminology needed for subjects
that fall outside the scope of the other three authorities.
Given the wide range of subject matter of works, the
Subject Authority must necessarily be built and maintained
in a way best suited to the individual requirements
of the collection being cataloged. Unlike with the Personal
and Corporate Name Authority or the Geographic Place
Authority, there is no single published authority file
that can serve as a model source in building a subject
authority file. Institutions must analyze the characteristics
of their collections and the requirements of their users,
and organize categories (or facets) and subcategories
of subjects that make sense for their individual situation
(for example, Christian Iconography, Hindu Iconography,
Historical Events, Literature, and the like).
Named Iconographic Subjects,
Literature, and Events
Iconography is the narrative content of a figurative
work depicted in terms of characters, situations, and
images that are related to a specific religious, social,
or historical context. The subject authority should
contain the proper names or titles of iconographic subjects.
Themes from religion, such as Ganesha or Life
of Jesus Christ, and mythology, such as Herakles
or Quetzalcˇatl (Maya deity), are iconography.
Themes from literature, such as Jane Eyre or
Lohengrin, and historical events, such as Coronation
of Charlemagne or United States Westward Expansion,
are also included.1
Buildings and Other Works as
The proper names of buildings may be used in the Subject
and Location fields of a Work Record. For example, if
you are cataloging a 19th-century watercolor of the
Parthenon, you will want to record the subject Parthenon
in that Work Record. There are two approaches for maintaining
an authority file for building names. Names of buildings
can be recorded as subject terms in the Subject Authority.
Note, however, that if the cataloging institution wishes
to retrieve information on the buildings as works in
their own right, the buildings should be recorded also
(or instead) as separate Work Records, where the names
of architects, dates, construction materials, and the
like can be recorded together with the building names.
The record for the built work would then be linked as
a Related Work to the records for drawings, photographs,
paintings, and other works in which it is depicted.
Similar decisions should be made for paintings, sculptures,
and other types of works that are depicted in art works.
See Part 1: Related Works and Chapter 6: Subject for
Subject Terminology in the
In cataloging a work or image, subject terms may be
drawn from the Personal and Corporate Name Authority,
Geographic Place Authority, and Concept Authority files
as well as from the Subject Authority (see Chapter 6:
Subject). It is more efficient to use the terms already
included in the other authorities rather than to create
duplicate Authority Records.
PEOPLE AND CORPORATE BODIES AS SUBJECTS
Personal and corporate body names that are subjects
of works or images should be recorded in the Personal
and Corporate Name Authority. CCO recommends that records
for all actual persons be maintained in the Personal
and Corporate Name Authority; an institution that diverges
from this practice needs to establish clear criteria,
first, for when the proper names of persons who are
subjects of art works will be included in the Subject
Authority and, second, when they will be included instead
in the Personal and Corporate Name Authority. The boundary
between actual historical persons and mythological,
religious, or legendary persons may sometimes be unclear.
For example, Napoleon Bonaparte would universally be
recognized as a historical person, but the placement
of Saint John the Baptist in the Subject Authority or
the Personal and Corporate Name Authority may be decided
differently by different institutions. Note that certain
events, such as conferences, are typically treated as
corporate bodies and recorded in the Personal and Corporate
GEOGRAPHIC PLACES AS SUBJECTS
CCO recommends that geographic places that are subjects
should be recorded in the Geographic Place Authority.
Institutions should make decisions on mythological and
legendary places to be included in the Subject or the
Geographic Place Authority because the distinction between
real and legendary places is not always easy to determine.
GENERIC SUBJECT TERMS
CCO recommends that genre terms such as still life
or landscape be maintained in the Concept Authority.
The Concept Authority will also contain terms for certain
objects and general concepts: objects depicted as subjects
(flowers, vase, table, tablecloth, hillfort, cathedral,
trees), materials in subjects (satin, water,
bread), activities (marriage, baptism, funeral,
battle, coronation, Christmas), agents (king,
bishop, peasants, guild, woman, housewife, prostitute,
Felis domesticus, horses), physical attributes (yellow,
zodiac symbols, Maltese cross, sunburst), associated
concepts (pastoral, erotica, propaganda, grandeur,
ugliness, Lutheran), and styles and periods as they
are depicted in subjects (Roman ruins, African, punk
Ambiguity and Uncertainty
When creating an Authority Record, the cataloger should
state only what is known about the subject. When information
is uncertain, it may still be recorded, but with an
indication of uncertainty or approximation--such as
ca. or probably--in the Note field. If
specific information is unknown, more general data may
be recorded. For example, for the subject Hannibal
crossing the Alps, the cataloger may be uncertain
in what Alpine chain Hannibal made his crossing; it
would be better to name the larger mountain system Alps,
rather than mistakenly naming an incorrect mountain
pass or range. Important information in the note field
should be indexed in controlled fields. Rules should
be in place to ensure consistency in recording uncertain
Organization of the Data
As with all authority terminology, each subject may
be known by various synonyms. These name variations
for subjects are critical access points and are therefore
required. Related keywords, described below, are recommended.
CCO recommends that the Subject Authority be in the
form of a thesaurus to allow for equivalence, associative,
and whole-part or genus-species relationships (see Part
1: Authority Files and Controlled Vocabulary: Thesaurus).
When subjects are displayed in a Work or Image Record,
an indication of the broader context of the subject
is recommended where appropriate. Having a hierarchical
structure that allows for the subject name to be displayed
within its broader contexts, either indented in vertical
displays or concatenated in horizontal strings, is recommended.
Examples include Hannibal crossing the Alps (Punic
Wars), Bastet (Egyptian goddess), and Aesop's
Fables (Fables, Literature). In the absence of a
hierarchical structure, from which it could be concatenated,
a broader context display field could be constructed
Some fields in the Subject Authority may be used for
display. Others are intended for retrieval. In the absence
of a hierarchical structure, a broader context display
field could be included. If date fields are included
(the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), for example),
they may comprise fields intended for display and others
that are formatted and used for indexing and retrieval.
Some institutions may wish to make links from this
authority file to the other three authorities. For example,
to make a complete record for an event in the Subject
Authority, it may be necessary to link to records for
persons or geographic places in other authorities.
The Note need not be repeating. All other elements
should be repeating. One of the names should be flagged
as preferred. A brief discussion of the elements or
fields recommended for this authority file follows later
in this section. For further discussion of this authority
file and additional fields, see Categories for the
Description of Works of Art: Subject Identification.
For further discussion of the relationships between
this authority file and the Work Record, see Chapter
A list of the elements discussed in this section appears
below. Required elements are noted.
Subject Names (preferred, alternates,
and variants) (required)
Broader Context (required, if
Related Keywords (required,
Related Subjects (required, if
Related Geographic Places
Related People or Corporate Bodies
- Named recurring events, such as conferences, are
recorded in the Personal and Corporate Name Authority.
See A1: note 1.
- Included in the Personal and Corporate Name Authority
are events that are formally convened, directed toward
a common goal, capable of being reconvened, and have
formal names, locations, dates, and durations that
can be determined in advance of the event. See the
Library of Congress Name Authority file and AACR for
formulating names for such events.