I am pleased to announce the presence of the following report which
should be of interest to list members
Graham, Margaret E. Description and indexing of images: report of a
survey of ARLIS members, 1998/99. Institute for Image Data Research,
University of Northumbria at Newcastle, 1999.
This report presents the findings of a survey of UK art and picture
libraries into the description and indexing of images, carried out
within the Institute for Image Data Research, University of
Northumbria at Newcastle, in the period November 1998 to January 1999.
The report covers background information on the context of the survey;
the methodology adopted; presentation and discussion of the findings;
and, a summary and conclusions.
In the Autumn of 1998, the Institute for Image Data Research was
commissioned by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) of the
Higher Education Funding Councils to prepare a state of the art report
on Content-Based Image Retrieval (URL:
http://www.unn.ac.uk/iidr/CBIR/cbir.html) , with particular emphasis
on the capabilities and limitations of current technology, and the
extent to which it is likely to prove of practical use to users in
higher education and elsewhere. The ARLIS Survey was carried out in
order to inform a section of the report to do with current techniques
for image and video retrieval. It also gave the researchers the
opportunity to find out what were some of the issues to do with the
management of image collections and current cataloguing and indexing
The questionnaire was distributed in early November 1998 to 181
institutional members of the Art Libraries Society of the UK. By
January 1999, sixty-one completed questionnaires had been returned
representing fifty-eight organisations.
A summary of the findings is as follows:
The majority of the respondents (60%) were from academic institutions,
representing the further and higher education community.
Image collections maintained:
The image collections maintained by respondents included the following
types: slides (35 mm); video; photographs (positives); photographs
(negatives); posters; prints; paintings; drawings; transparencies (5"x
4"); fabrics; film; art reproductions; illustrations/cuttings; and
lantern slides. The most popular combination of types in any
collection was '35 mm slides' and 'videos'.
The extent of digitisation is low, with just under a quarter of
respondents (23%) reporting that they had digitised some or, in one
case, all of their image collections. Some had grants to undertake
partial digitisation and one or two were about to start a digitisation
Cataloguing and indexing practices:
Three quarters of the respondents formally described their images,
although the level of description varied considerably across
organisations and sometimes between types of material within the one
organisation. Artist/photographer, Title and Date were the most
For each type of image, with the exception of video, the majority of
respondents used in-house rules to describe their images, although
several indicated that practice varied between different types of
image. In the case of videos, the majority used the Anglo-American
Cataloguing Rules. Specific tools for describing non-text items, such
as the standards developed by the Museum Documentation Association and
the Visual Resources Association, were in use by a small number.
There was a wide variation in the way images were described in terms
of their content, e.g. subject, period, genre, etc. In most cases,
Title was ranked highest alongside Subject headings.
The majority of respondents used in-house schemes to classify and
index their images. The Dewey Decimal Classification was the most
popular classification scheme in use, particularly for videos.
Specialist schemes such as Social History and Industrial
Classification, the Art and Architecture Thesaurus, Thesaurus of
Graphic Materials, and ICONCLASS, were in use by a small number of
Two thirds of the respondents maintained catalogues and indexes for
some or all of their image collections. The most popular type were
manual indexes and catalogues, followed by online catalogues and
database management systems. Only a small proportion used image
Issues to do with indexing images:
Just over half the respondents (52%) were not satisfied with the
content indexing of their image collections, whilst 42% indicated that
they were satisfied. Of the former, 55% indicated that more in-depth
indexing was required or that not enough subject terms or keywords
The three most important problems or issues that arose when
cataloguing and indexing images were: aspects of the indexing process
itself; resources (i.e. time, money or people); and, the indexing
tools available (or, sometimes, the lack of an appropriate tool).
Issues to do with searching for images:
The three most important problems or issues which users experience
when searching and retrieving images were: the indexing policies or
practices in the institutions concerned; aspects of users' information
seeking behaviour; and, the type of index available and how this
affected the way users searched and retrieved images.
Content-Based Image Retrieval (CBIR):
On the whole, more respondents thought that CBIR techniques would be
of some use to the users of their image collections than thought they
would be of no use, although there was some variation across types of
image. However, several respondents indicated that they were not
sure, or did not know, if CBIR would be of use to their users.
Retrieval by colour and shape were considered more useful than
retrieval by texture.
Uses of images:
The three most popular uses of images were: supporting lectures,
seminars and teaching; private study and research; and publications.
The report is available at: http://www.unn.ac.uk/iidr/ARLIS/
Printed versions of the report are available from the author.
Research and Development Manager
Institute for Image Data Research
University of Northumbria at Newcastle
Newcastle upon Tyne
Tel: 0191 227 4646
Fax: 0191 227 4637
Email: [log in to unmask]
*Catherine Grout*Visual Arts Data Service Project Manager*
**Surrey Institute of Art & Design**Farnham**Surrey**
****URL: http://vads.ahds.ac.uk *tel: 01252 892723****
Providing, preserving and promoting . . .
high quality digital resources for the visual arts