Week 4: Cataloging

As someone who doesn’t come from a digital humanities background, and who has little to no knowledge about how cataloging works, I was overwhelmed and shocked at the depth and complexity to which cataloging entails. “Cataloging Cultural Objects: A Guide to Describing Cultural Works and Their Images,” provides both simple, yet complicated guidelines and solutions to cataloging a work of art. On one hand, they condense the process into seemingly two simple components: “promoting good access to the works and images coupled with clear, accurate descriptions that users will understand.” On the other hand, when it comes down to cataloging an actual piece of work, there is so much to be taken into consideration. One must consider the difference between the work itself and a picture of the work. This process further complicates the notion of authorship. Is the author of the work the one who took the image? Is the author the one whose work is documented? Furthermore, the amount and type of information given may vary depending on what types of materials are being documented. There is just so much to be taken into account and the examples provided, though well done, gave me so much anxiety. When Baca goes into detail about the difference between works and images, it becomes so meta, so fast. A photograph of a work could be treated as either documentation or an image in itself. It could also be both. It could be a work of art that documents another work of art. It could be a photograph that documents a work of art that depicts another work of art. So where do we draw the line? Where do we begin with cataloging? As someone who is very bad at making decisions, I don’t think I could ever be responsible for having to catalogue an entire museum collection.

3 thoughts on “Week 4: Cataloging”

  1. This made me laugh! I agree, it’s all so meta. It’s funny, because “cataloguing” seems so boring and mundane — but it really means asking some of the most fundamental questions about the nature of objects. What are their most important qualities? What is an object, anyway? What’s the difference between an object and its representation? Ack!

  2. I agree 100%! Who knew cataloging incorporated so many small but influential decisions? And it’s really so much responsibility, and I feel like you really need to be very experienced in that particular field you are cataloging for in order to be able to make those decisions as accurately as possible. For example, when Baca said that the photograph of the Eiffel Tower would be considered a work, while a photograph of a cathedral would be considered an image – I don’t think I could distinguish that without the richer contexts that each of these pieces come from.

  3. So true! Like, do we have to document the photo hundred of times as different pieces of work. Not only that, but how do we ensure to catalogue it so the highest possible amount of people find its categorization valuable, and are able to retrieve the work when they need it?

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