Art & Architecture Thesaurus

Art & Architecture Thesaurus

Art & Architecture Thesaurus

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The Art & Architecture Thesaurus (AAT) is a controlled vocabulary used for describing items of art, architecture, and material culture. The AAT contains generic terms, such as "cathedral," but no proper names, such as "Cathedral of Notre Dame." The AAT is used by, among others, museums, art libraries, archives, catalogers, and researchers in art and art history. The AAT is a thesaurus in compliance with ISO and NISO standards including ISO 2788 and ANSI/NISO Z39.19.

The AAT is a structured vocabulary of around 34,000 concepts, including 131,000 terms, descriptions, bibliographic citations, and other information relating to fine art, architecture, decorative arts, archival materials, and material culture.


The AAT project began in the late 1970s in response to the gradual automation of records by art libraries, art journal indexing services, and catalogers of museum objects and visual resources. Automation required consistency in cataloging as well as more efficient retrieval of information; a controlled vocabulary was a solution to both these problems. The project was conceived by library directors and architectural experts Toni Petersen, Dora Crouch, and Pat Molholt and was originally headquartered part time at RPI in Troy, NY, then at Bennington College in Bennington, VT and later moved to Williamstown, Massachusetts, with the J. Paul Getty Trust providing technical advice and funding. In 1983 the Getty Trust...
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