Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Art Business

First Advisor

Eric Wolf

Second Advisor

Agnes Berecz


Unlike libraries, where descriptive cataloging has been internationally standardized for nearly a century, art museums to this day do not adopt a world-wide recognized standard for record-keeping their painting collections. It is challenging for museums to establish a single cataloging set of rules that could suffice in all cases, given that institutions are diverse in scope and in needs and deal with paintings that by nature are unique. Hence, museums vary their standards much more than libraries by often adopting internally-developed guidelines instead of recognized authorities when cataloging their painting collections. This thesis addresses this issue focusing on cases in the United States and Canada and on a specific type of fine art, that of paintings. The research begins with recounting the history of the cataloging practice in both libraries and museums, highlighting the differences between the two. Moving forward, data is gathered through direct observation of museum collection databases as well as a survey and interviews directed to museum collections managers and registrars. Lastly, case studies of three selected museums are developed.