II. History

In 1985 the Thesaurus Artis Universalis (TAU) committee of the InternationalCommittee for the History of Art (CIHA) envisioned a multilingual thesaurus ofart and architecture terminology. From 1985 to 1989, the TAU committeeconducted experiments to develop the methodology for the project, while thepartner national institutions from the United States, France, Germany, Italy, andSpain investigated the possibilities of obtaining funding for their portions ofthe project. In 1989 the Committee endorsed the use of the AAT as the baselanguage for the project. By 1991 the nature and methodology of the project hadchanged. Because the scope of the AAT is broader than the mandates of theoriginal five national institutions that participated in the TAU project,financial support for a project as large as a bilingual version of the entire AATwas difficult to obtain. In addition, the AAT and its parent organization, theGetty Art History Information Program (AHIP)[4], had developed a strong network of partnerships withinstitutions with an active need for standard terminology in their own languages. These institutions were willing to release staff to work on specific vocabularyareas. Vocabulary specialists came to the AAT for week-long residencies, thepurpose of which was to match the visiting specialists' thesauri to the AAT.

The original goal of the AAT was to encourage the development of multilingualthesauri in the five CIHA languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, andGerman. As Frederick Lancaster points out in his pivotal study, "The abilityto handle publications in many languages and to accommodate several languages inthe design of information services is becoming more important as trulyinternational systems become operational."[5] To date, active interest in developing non-American Englishterminology has expanded from the first projects with French-speaking andBritish-English-speaking communities to include Italian and Spanish institutions. Colleagues in other countries are proceeding to establish working groups andfunding for equivalency work. British English terminology is now incorporatedinto the AAT itself, and the methods for establishing British English equivalentsto American English terminology parallel closely those for establishingequivalents in other languages.

4. The name of which was changed to Getty Information Institute in July1996.
5. F. Wilfrid Lancaster, Vocabulary Control for Information Retrieval, 2nded. (Arlington, VA: Information Resources Press, 1986), p. 218.