A thesaurus is a structured wordlist that is used to standardise terminology. It provides the user with a single preferred term from a hierarchy that is cross-referenced to other groups of terms which may be relevant to the subject.
Using standardised terminology like a thesaurus to catalogue objects in your museum collections enables you to keep consistent records which give reliable answers when searched.
There are many published thesauri covering object names, materials, locations, artists and makers, subjects and historical periods that museums can use in their documentation. These are available to view here and we will be adding to this resource over the coming months.

Building Materials Thesaurus

Resource

The Building Material Thesaurus from the Forum on Information Standards in Heritage (FISH) includes terms for construction materials for monuments relating to the built and buried heritage. Historic England, as part of the Forum on Information Standards in Heritage (FISH), takes a leading role in setting standards for recording the built and buried heritage. Historic […]

Part of: Terminologies

Maritime Craft Types Thesaurus

Resource

The Maritime Craft Types Thesaurus from the Forum on Information Standards in Heritage (FISH) includes terms for craft types which survive as wrecks for Historic England’s maritime record and can be used to describe types of ship. Historic England, as part of the Forum on Information Standards in Heritage (FISH), takes a leading role in setting standards […]

Part of: Terminologies

Maritime Cargo Types Thesaurus

Resource

The Maritime Cargo Types Thesaurus from the Forum on Information Standards in Heritage (FISH) includes terms for types of cargo being carried by ships when they went down. Historic England, as part of the Forum on Information Standards in Heritage (FISH), takes a leading role in setting standards for recording the built and buried heritage. Historic […]

Part of: Terminologies

Maritime Place Name Thesaurus

Resource

The Maritime Place Name Thesaurus from the Forum on Information Standards in Heritage (FISH) includes terms for maritime ports, countries and bodies of water from and to which ships may have sailed or been registered. Historic England, as part of the Forum on Information Standards in Heritage (FISH), takes a leading role in setting standards […]

Part of: Terminologies

Archaeological Objects Thesaurus

Resource

The Archaeological Objects Thesaurus was originally developed by MDA (now Collections Trust) and has been further developed by the Forum on Information Standards in Heritage (FISH). It includes terms for physical evidence, usually portable, resulting from past human activity or environmental remains that can be recovered from archaeological fieldwork. Historic England, as part of the […]

Part of: Terminologies

Defence of Britain Thesaurus

Resource

The Defence of Britain Thesaurus was originally developed for the Defence of Britain Project, completed in 2002. It includes types of defensive monuments relating to the 20th century in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. This thesaurus is no longer actively updated. The Defence of Britain Project was administered by the Council for British Archaeology and funded by the […]

Part of: Terminologies

Thesaurus of Monument Types

Resource

The Thesaurus of Monument Types from the Forum on Information Standards in Heritage (FISH) includes terms for types of monuments relating to the built and buried heritage in England. Historic England, as part of the Forum on Information Standards in Heritage (FISH), takes a leading role in setting standards for recording the built and buried […]

Part of: Terminologies

Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names (TGN)

Resource

The Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names (TGN) is a structured vocabulary, including names, descriptions, and other metadata for extant and historical cities, empires, archaeological sites, and physical features important to research of art and architecture. TGN may be linked to GIS (Geographical Information System), maps, and other geographic resources. This controlled vocabulary may be used […]

Part of: Terminologies

Union List of Artist Names (ULAN)

Resource

The Getty Union List of Artist Names (ULAN) is a structured vocabulary, including names, biographies, related people, and other metadata about artists, architects, firms, studios, museums, patrons, sitters, and other people and groups involved in the creation and study of art and architecture. This controlled vocabulary may be used by someone cataloguing or indexing a collection […]

Part of: Terminologies

Forum on Information Standards in Heritage (FISH) Thesauri

Resource

The Forum on Information Standards in Heritage (FISH) is a non-profit membership group that sets standards for recording the built and buried heritage to ensure consistency in documentation. FISH makes available a number of online thesauri that are regularly updated as new terms are submitted and approved by the FISH Data Standards Unit. Through the use […]

Part of: Terminologies

Iconclass - a classification system for art and iconography

Resource

Iconclass is a classification system used by art historians, researchers and curators. It is a hierarchically ordered collection of definitions of objects, people, events and abstract ideas that may form the subject of an image. It is widely accepted as a scientific tool for description, retrieval and research of subjects in images. Iconclass is divided to […]

Part of: Terminologies

Getty Art and Architecture Thesaurus (AAT)

Resource

The Getty Art and Architecture Thesaurus (AAT) is a structured vocabulary, including terms, descriptions, and other metadata for generic concepts related to art, architecture, conservation, archaeology, and other cultural heritage. Included are work types, styles, materials, techniques, and others. This controlled vocabulary may be used by someone cataloguing or indexing a collection as it provides […]

Part of: Terminologies

Connected Earth Telecommunications Object Thesaurus

Resource

Connected Earth’s Telecommunciations Object Wiki-Thesaurus gives a common language for telecommunciations objects; primarily designed for people working with telecommunications objects in heritage collections. Clicking the link on this page will open this resource to view in your current browser window.

Part of: Terminologies

British Museum Object Names Thesaurus

Resource

A Collections Data Management Section (CDMS) Working Party was set up in the 1980s to analyse the terms used to record object names in the British Museum, and to incorporate them into an on-line thesaurus. Hierarchical and other standard thesaural relationships were added, as well as explanatory notes where appropriate. The thesaurus architecture is based […]

Part of: Terminologies

British Museum Materials Thesaurus

Resource

The Materials thesaurus was initially compiled from index terms generated from computer records created using curatorial documentation and the objects themselves. A Working Party was set up with representatives from the Collections Data Management Section (CDMS) associated with various curatorial departments. Terms were vetted, incorporated into an overall hierarchical structure, and other thesaural relationships and […]

Part of: Terminologies

ICOM Vocabulary of Basic Terms for Cataloguing Costume

Resource

ICOM International Committee for the Museums and Collections of Costume’s Vocabulary of Basic Terms for Cataloguing Costume offers comprehensive guidance on cataloguing costume to ensure that the information contained in each garment in museum collections are recorded clearly. The lists of basic information and basic terms for women’s, men’s, and infants’ garments have been published as a guide […]

Part of: Terminologies