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CONA: Frequently Asked Questions
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How can my institution contribute to CONA?

If your institution wishes to contribute to CONA, write to Describe your institution, the scope of your collection, and the types of information your institution collects about works. Contributions to CONA are currently accepted in bulk via a prescribed XML format or CDWA Lite. LIDO will likely be a contribution format as well.. Contributions will also be accepted via an online form, which is also scheduled to be available in 2012.


Which fields are required in my CONA contribution?

The minimum fields and editorial rules of CONA are in compliance with CDWA and CCO. Works are identified with a unique and persistent numeric ID. In addition, given that CONA is an authority, it is important that records contain enough other minimum information to allow users of CONA to clearly identify each work uniquely, in order to prevent users from unintentionally linking to the wrong work. A general description of the minimum fields for CONA is listed below:

Catalog Level: An indication of the level of cataloging represented by the record, based on the physical form or intellectual content of the material (e.g., item, group, subgroup, volume, collection).

Object/Work Type: The kind of object or work described (e.g., refectory table, altarpiece, portfolio, drawing, drinking vessel, basilica, dome).

Title or Name: Titles, identifying phrases, or names given to a work of art, architecture, or material culture. For complex works, series, or collections, the title may refer to a discrete unit within the larger entity (a print from a series, a photograph in a collection, a panel from a fresco cycle, a building within a temple complex) or it may identify only the larger entity (series, collection, cycle) itself (e.g., Venus and Cupid, Noli me tangere, Portrait of Thomas Jefferson, Ceramic fruit bowl, Untitled, Empire State Building, Album of 65 Studies).

Creator: Identification of the named or anonymous individuals or corporate bodies responsible for the design, production, manufacture, or alteration of the work. If there is no known creator, a reference to the presumed culture or nationality of the unknown creator (e.g., Christopher Wren, attributed to Kicking Bear, follower of the Limbourg Brothers, Tintoretto with additions by unknown 16th-century Venetian).

Creation Date: The date or range of dates associated with the creation, design, production, presentation, performance, construction, or alteration of the work or its components  (e.g., 1667, ca. 1210, 17th century, before 952 BCE, reign of Rameses II).

Measurements: Information about the dimensions, size, or scale of the work. It may include the scale of the work. It may also include the number of the parts of a complex work, series, or collection (e.g., 23.9 x 35.8 x 8.3 cm, 76 x 41 x 39 feet, 56.8 cm (diameter), sheets range from 20.3 to 49 cm height).

Materials and Techniques: An indication of the substances or materials used in the creation of a work, as well as any implements, production or manufacturing techniques, processes, or methods incorporated in its fabrication. For works on paper, descriptions of watermarks may also be included (e.g., oil on canvas, egg-tempera paint with tooled gold-leaf halos on panel, Carrara marble on granite base).

Subject Matter:  Terms that characterize what the work depicts or what is depicted in it, including generic terms and proper names, and all terms that characterize the narrative, iconographic, or non-objective meaning conveyed by an abstract or a figurative composition. Subject matter is what is depicted in and by a work of art. It also covers the function of an object or architecture that otherwise has no narrative content. (e.g., landscape, portrait, allegory, still life, nonrepresentational art, Madonna and Child, Chicomecoatl, Thomas Jefferson, pear, lilies, book of hours, sarcophagus lid).

Current Location:  The name and geographic location of the repository that is currently responsible for the work, or, for monumental works and architecture, the geographic location of the work. If the work is lost, destroyed, has an unknown location, or in an anonymous private collection, this is indicated. (e.g., Graphische Sammlung Albertina (Vienna, Austria); Columbus (Indiana, USA); location unknown).

The minimum fields in a CONA record are the types of information typically captured in a visual resources catalog, repository catalog records, or included on a museum wall label. To contribute in bulk, an institution would map fields in their database to the fields in CONA. For example, a field called "Title of Work" in a museum's collection management system may map to the field called "Title/Name" in CONA; "Type of Object" in a library special collections system, may be "Object/Work Type" in CONA.

Default values and suggested methods will be available to assist a contributor who may be lacking required data. Where a given type of minimum CONA data is not actually captured in a contributor's records, it may often be implied from the scope or location of the collection, and thus can be included as a default value. For example, if a repository is contributing data but does not have a field in its local records specifically mapping to Current Location, the current location may be inferred and included by default for that contribution. Depicted subject may be lacking in contributors' records; it may often be surmised from the object/work type or title. Default values, such as “unavailable,” may also be provided for occasional instances where the required data is simply unavailable, for example, if measurements are unknown.

In addition to the minimum fields listed above, CONA will include optional fields, including place of discovery or other former locations, language of the title, inscriptions, style, culture, events associated with the work, descriptive note, copyright statement, and provenance. The Title or Name field is repeatable in CONA, capturing the equivalence relationships characteristic of a thesaurus. Hierarchical relationships may be included as well, when records in CONA are linked to each other in whole/part relationships, for example, to link a work to the archival group of which it is a part, or to link a print to the series of prints of which it is a part. Associative relationships may be included, as when the record for a sketch for a painting is linked to the record for the painting with relationship type study for.

When will CONA be published? What will the export formats be?

The date of the first publication of CONA will depend upon the number of contributions received from the user community. The first contributions will be accepted in 2011. The online search module is scheduled to go live in early 2012. If contributors are enthusiastic and contribute records beginning in 2011, it is hoped that CONA may be published in licensed files within a few years of that date. Although the export formats are still under discussion, it is currently believed that CONA will be released in the same formats as the other three vocabularies: in XML and relational tables, and in the online "browser."

What criteria are used for the required fields and editorial rules for CONA?

CONA is compliant with the CDWA (Categories for the Description of Works of Art) and CCO (Cataloging Cultural Objects), both of which are standards for cataloging works of art and architecture, based upon consensus and best practice at major cataloging institutions and repositories worldwide. In most cases, CONA rules are also compliant with library cataloging standards, where this is possible given the special characteristics of art works and architecture. CONA is a thesaurus in structure, and thus compliant with ISO and NISO standards for thesaurus construction.

How does CONA differ from a collections management system?

CONA is an authority in which records from multiple institutions are compiled, while a collections management system is intended for use by a repository or cataloging institution. CONA has fewer fields than would be required to manage a collection. In addition, CONA may have multiple contributors for a single record, while a collections management system would include only data from the repository using the system. Given that CONA is an authority intended to aid search and retrieval across collections, the most important characteristics of CONA are the persistent unique numeric ID that designates the unique object/work and the multiple titles/names by which the work may be accessed.


More questions and answers

The selected questions and answers below were generated from a Webinar introducing CONA to the user community in May 2010. The Webinar, Introducing the Getty’s new Cultural Objects Name Authority™ (CONA), was sponsored by the Museum Computer Network (MCN), Gallery Systems, and the J. Paul Getty Trust.

Q: Who do you envision will be the contributors to CONA?
A: Contributors to CONA will likely include museums, special collections, and other repositories of art and cultural works; visual resource collections; archives; art libraries; consortia of any of the above; bibliographic projects such as the Avery Index; and systems vendors or other entities that collect object/work data for clients.

Q: May CONA be used by non‐contributors? If so, could you go over the advantages for contributors that will not apply to non‐contributors?
A: As with the other vocabularies, CONA will be available to contributors and non‐contributors alike. The fees and terms for licensing CONA are not yet established. However, they are likely to be the same or similar to those in place for the other Getty vocabularies. You can read about conditions currently in effect for the AAT, ULAN, and TGN at the download center. Contributors of significant numbers of records to AAT, ULAN, and TGN are currently given a fee‐free license for the data. However, the primary advantage of contributing to CONA and the other Getty vocabularies – outside of the altruistic goal to share data, which is often mandated by the contributing cataloging institution’s mission – is the practical advantage to a contributing institution of having their own data included in a compiled data set, making that data set particularly useful for them in retrieval and cataloging. For repositories of objects/works, an additional advantage of contributing to CONA is the assurance that CONA authority records for their objects/works contain accurate data. When visual resource collections or other contributors to CONA must rely upon second‐hand sources to fill in values for these objects/works, the information may not be as up‐to‐date as the repository’s own records.

Q: How do you envision CONA will be used? By whom will it be used?
A: As with the AAT, ULAN, and TGN, CONA will be used as an authority for indexing and a source of values and relationships for retrieving. In the case of CONA, the unique numeric identifier and the titles of objects/works (along with other identifying information for the objects/works) will provide important access points for information about works of art. The anticipated audience for CONA includes visual resources collections, repositories (museums and special collections), archives, art libraries, consortia, and the technical support and systems providers for these groups.

Q: How will you weigh the holding museum's contributions against information for the same art works provided by a visual resources collection or other contributor?
A: The information from the repository of the object/work will be considered more authoritative than information coming from other contributors who have had to rely on second hand sources for the same information. Where only one value is included – for example, for dimensions – the repository’s dimensions would be preferred over the dimensions provided by another contributor for the same object/work. Where a field is repeating – for example, Title/Name – titles from both contributors would be included, with the contributor for each tile noted. In this case, titles are a critical access point, and all titles by which the work may be known should be included. End‐users will be able to see which is preferred by the repository through both a link to the contributor’s acronym, and by a “Title Type” field that will be flagged “repository title.”

Q: Will there be a process for repositories to refresh/update existing contributions, in order to keep the information current?
A: Yes, such a process is a priority for CONA contributions. As for AAT, TGN, and ULAN, new data for CONA will be loaded and merged with the existing vocabulary records. The repository's newly contributed CONA data will be added to or replace their previously contributed CONA data. Issues regarding updates are currently being refined with the large international contributors to the AAT. Similar resolutions will work for CONA as wel.

Q: What are the editorial rules? Are they available now? What if our data is missing a required field — would we be prohibited from contributing?
A: The CONA editorial rules, based on CDWA and CCO, are available online. Given that CDWA and CCO represent best common practice already in place in repositories, by extension, most contributors will typically already have data for most CONA required fields. The CONA rules, required fields, and requirements for controlled values are drawn from CDWA (Categories for the Description of Works of Art) and CCO (Cataloging Cultural Objects) rules, both of which are published. For CONA, there will be default values and suggestions for how to supply data for CONA’s required fields when it is missing in contributors’ records. For example, for a display field, data for this display could perhaps be parsed from several controlled fields in the contributor’s database.

Q: What will be done when duplicate records are submitted? How will you find duplicates and combine the information?
A: We will use the same process as we currently do for AAT, ULAN, and TGN. When multiple contributors submit records for the same object/work, they will be "merged" into a single record in CONA, with title/name and the descriptive note linked to the contributor’s acronym or name in the merged record. You can see an example of a merged record in ULAN, for Le Corbusier (the contributors' acronyms appear at the bottom of the page, after the name they contributed) . We will find matching records in a way similar to the way we do it for the current vocabularies. We will find matching records in a way similar to the way we do it for the current vocabularies, using a combination of automated matching and human oversight and research.

Q: How will you disambiguate records when all values are the same for multiple works? For example, how will end users differentiate between the many works with a generic title and similar creator data?
A: For systems, the unique numeric ID will disambiguate records. For display lists for end users, in addition to creator and title, enough information will be supplied to disambiguate one object/work from another, including tombstone information and the repository name and geographic location.

Q: Are thumbnail images going to play a role in disambiguation? Is a thumbnail included in the CONA contribution? Are images required for contributions?
A: The role played by thumbnail images in CONA is yet to be finalized. We recognize that thumbnail images could be very useful for CONA, even more than for AAT, ULAN, and TGN. For the existing vocabularies, you can see an example of how we have linked to images for a limited number of records, as for the "representative images" for rhyta in the AAT. Thumbnail images would not be required of contributors. Whether and how thumbnail images would be included in the CONA import format is still being decided.

Q: Insofar as many contributing databases are formatted in VRA Core, how mappable would such data be with the CONA version of CDWA? It looks pretty close. Will you be creating a transform or support for VRA Core 4 validated XML?
A: You will be able to map data elements between VRA Core and CDWA Lite or the CONA import format. There is currently an available mapping between CDWA Lite, VRA Core, and other standards (the CONA import format is not yet available). We do not have specific plans to create a transform or support for VRA Core 4 validated XML, however we will note that this would be desirable and add it to our technical wish list. In any case, I would think that users or a systems vendor would perhaps do so in any case, and share the information among themselves. One thing to note about VRA Core: CONA collects records for the objects/works depicted in the visual resources, not information about the image or "visual surrogate" per se.

Q: Will CONA link to ULAN, so there will be no need to re‐enter all of the creator biographical information in an individual CONA record? How will new artist names, those not already in ULAN, be incorporated in CONA? What about TGN names in CONA? Would creator names or geographic names not already in ULAN or TGN need to be entered first into ULAN or TGN?
A: Yes, the artist names and place names in CONA will be controlled by ULAN and TGN, so there is no need to re‐enter all of the peripheral creator information, etc. in the CONA contribution. Currently, controlled lists in the other vocabularies (those controlled by AAT or TGN) are reconciled with values in the contributor’s data in pre‐processing. If the CONA contributor has actually captured the ULAN, TGN, or AAT unique identifier in their record, this mapping is relatively easy. If the contributor has only captured text values in a field (with no numeric ID), then automatic matching can be done; but there may be some homographs that require a human to make decisions about mapping. Although the techniques are still under development, for artists not already in ULAN, a bulk load of your new artists to ULAN prior to your CONA contribution would probably be one way to deal with this.

Q: How will CONA accommodate LC subject headings or Iconclass? Will it accommodate names from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography or other published sources?
A: For indexing of the Depicted Subject fields of the CONA object/work, there will be a set of fields for recording the LC identifier and text string of the LC (Library of Congress) subject heading. Iconclass or other subject indicators may also be recorded here.

Q: Names of portrait sitters are not in ULAN. How can their names be controlled in the Depicted Subject area of CONA, which seems to be linked to ULAN?
A: Our current plan is to create a facet in ULAN for non‐artists, which could contain information for the sitters needed for CONA and other implementations using ULAN. Actually, we already have such a facet, but it is unpublished and currently contains primarily authors who are not visual artists; they came into ULAN via various past contributions.

Q: Any comments about the difficulty of assigning subject matter to contemporary art?
A: This is an important topic, but out of scope for this discussion. At minimum for CONA, you could list a general subject, such as nonrepresentational art or performance. Hopefully the topic of subject access can be addressed at a conference or workshop in the next year or so.

Q: Our database is totally in Dutch. How can this data fit in CONA?
A: We welcome contributions in languages other than English. Much of the minimum required CONA data is the same in both Dutch and English, or could be mapped to controlled values in CONA, which are often in turn controlled by the multilingual AAT, ULAN, or TGN.

Q: Can data submissions include information in other alphabets, like Greek?
A: CONA will be Unicode compliant and will accept values in multiple languages and alphabets in certain key fields, including Title/Name and Descriptive Note. For other fields, the Greek data would need to be translated into the Roman alphabet, or mapped to English controlled values.

Q: For those of us working in VR collections, we gather information from multiple sources to complete a data record. Is there a place in CONA to record the data source for each piece of information? Another asks: Is warrant required? For contributing museums, is the museum itself considered warrant?
A: Sources are linked to key fields of the CONA record, including Title/Name, Descriptive Note, and the record as whole. There is a separate controlled source authority to capture sources. To see how these sources are linked to an online display of a current Getty vocabulary, see the bottom of an AAT record, where sources and contributors for the terms, note, and full record are linked. For repositories of objects/works (museums and special collections), the warrant of the repository’s own catalog record is sufficient.

Q: Will CONA’s online interface link back to the contributor's record online?
A: That issue is still under consideration. Among the caveats is the practicality of maintaining the currency of the many thousands of resulting live links. At minimum, the contributor will be able to cite the URL in the Source area of a CONA record.

Q: Are provenance and exhibition history included in CONA?
A: A designated note field is set aside for Provenance in CONA. Exhibition history is not included as a separate field, but you could include it in the Descriptive Note. Critical and important exhibitions may be recorded in the Events fields.

Q: What terms do you use to classify installation works? What about video projections? What about new media that is permanently or semi‐permanently installed in one location? What about born‐digital and digitized objects?
A: All of these types of work are within scope of CONA, and the editorial manual will include examples for such works. In the meantime, we would welcome examples to help us work out the issues regarding Object/Work Type and Classification for the manual (send them to The work types in CONA are controlled by AAT. You could also study the AAT in the meantime, and suggest new terms if necessary (include literary warrant).

Q: It has been stated that music and films were not intended for CONA, but among the examples in your PowerPoint was a piece of film. When are films within scope of CONA?
A: CONA is not intended to be a comprehensive catalog of commercial films or the world’s music. However, at the same time CONA must accommodate the types of cultural works collected by visual arts institutions. Therefore, films about art, films by a director who is considered a visual artist, or films otherwise contained in the collections of such institutions are welcome. If your institution collects primarily works of visual art, and a film is part of your collection, then the film would most likely be within scope of CONA.

Q: If we are cataloguing ethnographic works, e.g., African, Asante, etc., would the creator information go into Culture or the Creator fields?
A: For CONA, it can go in both places. Creator is required. Therefore, if you locally record it only in Culture, you or your programmer (for bulk loads) can add the word "unknown" to the value in your culture field in order to fill in the CONA Creator field (e.g., unknown Asante). ULAN has a facet containing such "unknown" creators, which will control values in CONA. If you notice in the meantime that ULAN is missing a value that you need, please let us know. See examples in ULAN full record displays and the hierarchy display (click on the "U" to see the values) .

Q: Are copper printing plates for etchings, or photographic negatives or transparencies considered objects/works in CONA?
A: Yes, these may be included in CONA, and linked to the prints made from them.

Q: Will there be a way to sequence component records related to a parent work, e.g. pages in a folio?
A: Yes. You can list the page in Relationship Number or Qualifier (a note where you can express nuance, e.g., 34 v), and you can indicate how the siblings should sort under a parent in the hierarchy with "Sort Order among siblings."

Q: Will there some type of a demo available for CONA? Will there be training for cataloging and using CONA?
A: We plan to have training materials on the Vocabulary Program Web pages. We also plan to conduct workshops at conferences when CONA is available for contributions.



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Updated 31 October 2011

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