About APT

About APT

What is the APT?


top of page Purpose

The purpose of the Australian Pictorial Thesaurus is to provide Australian terms for indexing Australian pictorial and object collections and a controlled vocabulary for searching across image databases on the Internet. The APT is intended to serve as a national standard for describing pictorial materials.

Picture Australia, an Internet based service which provides a single point of access to digitised images from many of Australia's leading cultural heritage institutions, has adopted the APT as its preferred thesaurus.

top of page Sponsors

The Australian Pictorial Thesaurus was developed through a joint project sponsored by National and State Libraries Australasia (NSLA) with support from the Collections Australia Network (CAN), formerly Australian Museums Online (AMOL). NSLA is the peak body representing State and Territory Libraries and the National Library throughout Australia. CAN is an initiative of the Cultural Ministers Council and its Heritage Collections Council. NSLA is now sponsoring the ongoing management and development of the APT.

top of page Background

The APT was created from the State Library of New South Wales´ PICMAN Topic Thesaurus. This thesaurus was developed to index the Library's extensive pictorial collections in the Manuscripts, Oral History and Pictures database. For more information about the development and history of APT, see the papers When is a Forest Fire a Bushfire? and The Australian Pictorial Thesaurus 2 years on

The APT is hosted by the State Library of New South Wales, using software supplied by ADLIB Information Systems of Australia

top of page What is a thesaurus?

A thesaurus is a structured and defined list of terms which standardises words used for indexing. Thesauri assist searches in single, or across multiple, databases by ensuring that indexers use the same terms to describe similar objects.

A thesaurus is useful because by consulting it an indexer can independently assign the same descriptive terms to an item across any number of collections anywhere in the country. This is of immense benefit to researchers.

A thesaurus generally has a number of distinct features

top of page What is the Australian Pictorial Thesaurus?

The Australian Pictorial Thesaurus (APT) is a hierarchical thesaurus of over 15,000 Australian subject terms for the indexing of images and other original material collections. It provides a common indexing language for describing pictorial and other collections of Australian libraries, archives and museums. It is an authoritative vocabulary, compiled and maintained on established principles of thesaurus construction.

The APT uses contemporary Australian words and phrases to describe objects, people, places, activities and concepts. The range and depth of APT terms facilitate the precise indexing of images and collections. Using APT terms will facilitate subject searches across national collections. Terms idiomatic to a particular state are not included, so users requiring such terms should contact their own state library for advice.

The APT arranges terms hierarchically. This means that terms are organised within a table of linked terms. That is: terms which are similar but broader in their application; terms which are similar but narrower in their application; and terms which are related. This allows the user to move around the thesaurus by following its hyperlinks, to choose the most appropriate term.

Users can suggest terms for the APT on the electronic form provided or by submission to the APT Coordinator at the State Library of New South Wales (see Suggesting New Terms).

top of page The Australian Pictorial Thesaurus hierarchy

Most thesauri are based on hierarchies which allow them to express relationships between terms.

The APT locates all its terms hierarchically within six main groups or tables:

1. natural objects e.g. plants, animals, landforms, weather
2. manufactured objects e.g. objets d'art, clothing, tools, motor vehicles, currency
3. people e.g. national, regional or ethnic people, people by occupation, groups
4. places & structures e.g. cities, houses, sacred sites, accident sites, wilderness areas
5. events & activities e.g. sports events, industrial activities, cultural events & activities
6. ideas & Concepts e.g. political processes, law, poverty, humour

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