The purpose of this paper is to examine the art historical antecedents of providing subject access to images. After reviewing the assumptions and limitations inherent in the most prevalent descriptive method, the paper seeks to introduce a new model that allows for more comprehensive representation of visually‐based cultural materials.
The paper presents a literature‐based conceptual analysis, taking Panofsky's theory of iconography and iconology as the starting‐point. Panofsky's conceptual model, while appropriate for art created in the Western academic tradition, ignores or misrepresents work from other eras or cultures. Continued dependence on Panofskian descriptive methods limits the functionality and usefulness of image representation systems.
The paper recommends the development of a more precise and inclusive descriptive model for art objects, which is based on the premise that art is not another sort of text, and should not be interpreted as such.
The paper provides suggestions for the development of representation models that will enhance the description of non‐textual artifacts.
The paper addresses issues in information science, the history of art, and computer science, and suggests that a new descriptive model would be of great value to both humanist and social science scholars.
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