Measurements

DEFINITION

Information about the size, shape, scale, and dimensions of a work of art.

SUBCATEGORIES

DIMENSIONS
EXTENT
TYPE
VALUE
UNIT
QUALIFIER
DATE
SHAPE
SIZE
SCALE
FORMAT
REMARKS
CITATIONS

DISCUSSION

The measurements of different types of objects are taken in different ways. For works such as engravings, the dimensions of both the printing plate and the sheet may be significant [Figure 34]. Some works, such as costume, may be identified by size, while others, such as examples of graphic design, are identified by format. For a video or film, technical formats and running time are the customary way of identifying size and shape.

Measurements help to identify an object. They also make it possible to distinguish between otherwise similar works, and to group comparable objects according to shared characteristics.

Measurements can be taken with the aid of precise instruments, and therefore are very accurate. They can also be estimations, taken on the basis of "sight," or historical assessments of uncertain accuracy.

The assessment of size, shape, and format may require a specialized knowledge of the characteristics of a particular medium.

Source

Measurements and other indications of the work's size and shape may be determined on the basis of observation, or may be found in published sources such as collection or exhibition catalogs. They may also be found in unpublished sources such as inventories.

ACCESS

Researchers may be interested in studying works of particular shapes or formats to compare them to similar works of art, such as all of the small-format illuminated books of William Blake, or to dimensional standards implicit in materials, such as elephant-folio books or nineteenth-century painted tinware made from pieces of tin larger than those exported to America. In addition, dimensions can provide corroborating evidence in relating objects to one another, as in the case of reassembling a dispersed sketchbook or identifying painted panels as a pair.


Measurements - Dimensions

DEFINITION

The numerical dimensions of a work of art.

EXAMPLES

436.9 x 718 x 777 cm (14 ft. 4 in. x 23 ft. 6 1/2 in. x 25 ft. 6 in.) [Figure 3]
46.5 x 38 cm [Figure 32]
23.9 x 35.8 x 8.3 cm
76¼ x 41¾ inches
4¾ x 8 inches (oval)
26.5 x 19.1 cm, text area 17 x 13 cm, oak covers 27.3 x 19.8 cm [Figure 31]
56.8 cm (diameter)
19.1 x 23.5 x 13.9 cm (irregular, largest dimensions)
48.3 x 28.1 (diameter of mouth), 27.2 (diameter of body) [Figure 9]
4 3/4 x 8 inches; secondary support: 12 x 15 3/4 inches
17.6 x 26.4 cm (plate mark), 24.5 x 30.7 cm (folio) [Figure 34]
approximately 22.4 x 17.3 mm (in setting) [Figure 29]
overall: 183 x 187 cm; width of central panel: 105 cm; width of each side panel: 39 cm
circumference of the base of the object was measured as 5 braccia during the 17th century
172 minutes

DISCUSSION

This subcategory records the prose description of the dimensions. Traditionally, dimensions are expressed height by width by depth (so orientation is implied in the description of the dimensions). For example, dimensions of a painting of vertical orientation [Figure 8] could be 92 x 72 cm; however, more explanatory text may be required to express the dimensions of a Greek vase [Figure 9] (e.g., 48.3 cm x 28.1 cm (diameter of mouth), 27.2 cm (diameter of body)). The information contained in this description should be indexed in other subcategories of MEASUREMENTS - DIMENSIONS and MEASUREMENTS - SHAPE. Historical units of measurement, such as braccia, should be translated into modern equivalents for indexing.

The dimensions or numerical measurements of different types of objects may be determined in different ways. For example, when measuring a coin, weight is as important as diameter. For a painting, however, height and width are often sufficient. For a video or film, running time or length is the important measurement. [1] "Structural dimensions," such as warp and weft, textile or wallpaper pattern repeats, the spacing of chain lines on a piece of paper, or the weight of a piece of sculpture are also important.

Approximate indications of size should be accommodated. "Sight" measurements (estimated measurements judged by eye) may be taken in situations in which a work cannot be accurately measured, such as a framed pastel or a ceiling fresco. When a dimension is approximate or needs to be qualified in other ways, this should be recorded in MEASUREMENTS - DIMENSIONS - QUALIFIER.

It is important to note the overall dimensions. However, an object may have several relevant dimensions. When measuring a manuscript, for example, the dimensions of the volume, the page, and the text block could be indicated, and the number of lines on the page could be counted. The dimensions of each could be indicated in separate occurrences of the set of subcategories of DIMENSIONS. Appropriate values entered into the MEASUREMENTS - EXTENT, MEASUREMENTS - TYPE, and MEASUREMENTS - UNIT subcategories identify the kind of dimension given.

ACCESS

Researchers may want to find objects of similar sizes to reconstruct disassembled objects, for example, a sketchbook or an altarpiece.


Measurements - Dimensions - Extent

DEFINITION

The part of the work that has been measured.

EXAMPLES

image
overall diameter
plate mark
sheet
secondary support
mat
mount
frame
pattern
repeat
lid
footprint
tessera [per unit or number per square feet]

DISCUSSION

Since it is possible to take the dimensions of different parts of an object, such as the body and the base of a sculpture, it is necessary to indicate the area referred to by each dimension.

The extent identifies what has been measured. Overall or outside dimensions (including any secondary support, such as a mount, frame, border, or pedestal) must be differentiated from exact dimensions of the object's primary support or image (i.e., the medium without support).

Source

Dimensions of parts of an object may be determined by a direct examination or found in museum records, conservation reports, published catalogs, and unpublished documents, such as letters or contracts.

TERMINOLOGY/FORMAT

The use of a controlled vocabulary is recommended, such as the AAT (especially Objects facet), ACRL/RBMS Binding Terms, ACRL/RBMS Genre Terms, ACRL/RBMS Paper Terms, ACRL/RBMS Printing and Publishing Evidence, Base Mérimée: Lexique, the British Archaeological Thesaurus, ICOM Costume Terms, Index of Jewish Art, ISO 5127-3: Iconic Documents, ISO 5127-11: Audio-visual Documents, LC Descriptive Terms for Graphic Materials, Revised Nomenclature, Reyniès' Le Mobilier Domestique, and Tozzer Library Headings.


Measurements - Dimensions - Type

DEFINITION

The kind of dimension taken of a particular area or part of an object or work.

EXAMPLES

height
width
depth
length
circumference
diameter
volume
weight
area
running time

DISCUSSION

Knowing what was measured is critical for the understanding of the dimensions of an object. Recording the dimension type identifies the orientation or nature of the measurement taken.

ACCESS

This subcategory may be queried together with MEASUREMENTS - DIMENSIONS - VALUE and MEASUREMENTS - DIMENSIONS - UNIT to identify a work of specific dimensions. These three subcategories should repeat as a set for each measurement (e.g., height, width, and depth).

TERMINOLOGY/FORMAT

The use of a controlled vocabulary is recommended, such as the AAT (especially Attributes and Properties hierarchy and the Activities facet).


Measurements - Dimensions - Value

DEFINITION

The numerical value of a particular dimension taken of a work.

EXAMPLES

60
238
91.6
17.25

DISCUSSION

Separating the actual dimension from qualifiers allows mathematical processing on numerical values. This value may be an exact number or an approximation. Dimensions of different works may be taken to varying levels of accuracy.

TERMINOLOGY/FORMAT

This subcategory contains numerical values only. Researchers will need to find objects within given ranges of dimensions, regardless of whether they are recorded in metric units or US customary units (e.g., in centimeters or inches).


Measurements - Dimensions - Unit

DEFINITION

The unit of measurement used.

EXAMPLES

inches
centimeters
millimeters
meters
feet
liters
kilograms
cubic centimeters
minutes
square feet
carats

DISCUSSION

In order for a numerical measurement to have meaning, the unit of measurement must be specified.

ACCESS

To allow objects to be retrieved efficiently, historical measurements should be indexed according to modern equivalents.


Measurements - Dimensions - Qualifier

DEFINITION

A word or phrase that elaborates on the nature of the dimensions of the object.

EXAMPLES

sight
maximum
assembled
before restoration
largest
variable
corners rounded
framed
with base

DISCUSSION

A qualifier provides information about how the dimensions of a work were taken, and allows the researcher to evaluate their accuracy.

TERMINOLOGY/FORMAT

The use of a controlled vocabulary is recommended, such as the AAT Attributes and Properties hierarchy.


Measurements - Dimensions - Date

DEFINITION

The date when the measurement was determined, or a range of dates when a historical measurement was known to be valid.

EXAMPLES

Dec. 12, 1991
May 1970
1993
before 1652
1842-1896
17th century

DISCUSSION

Recording the date when measurements were taken or the dates when they were valid establishes the size of a work at a particular time and sets a benchmark for future comparison. Historical measurements are of value to the researcher, as the size of a work may have changed over time. For example, a piece of paper or canvas may have been cut down.

Dates may be estimated or approximate, since, for example, it may only be known that a work was a certain size in the 18th century. See CREATION - DATE.

TERMINOLOGY/FORMAT

Dates can be recorded in two ways: as text (illustrated in the above examples), and as two integers indicating the beginning of a date span and the end of a date span (dates BCE can be stored as negative values). Rigidly controlled format is required to allow retrieval. The use of date guidelines is recommended, such as the AAT Date Guidelines or ISO 8601: Dates & Times.


Measurements - Shape

DEFINITION

The outline, form, or characteristic configuration of a work or part of a work, including its contours.

EXAMPLES

square
rectangular
round
oval
triangular
cylindrical
hexagonal

DISCUSSION

Recording the shape of an object provides context for its measurements and physical appearance. Objects may change shape over time, as when a rectangular panel painting has been cut down to an oval shape. Also, various shapes may be associated with multiple MEASUREMENTS - DIMENSIONS - EXTENTS, as when a round drawing is mounted on a square secondary support. Each shape will have corresponding dimensions and dates.

The depth of detail indicated about shape will depend on the object being described and the policy of the holding institution. Shape may be indicated indicated when it is a distinguishing characteristic. In the context of a painting collection, for example, round or oval would seem more important to record than rectangular.

USES

Shape is important to some lines of inquiry. For example, a scholar may wish to examine the composition of round paintings of the Northern Baroque.

ACCESS

The information in this subcategory makes it possible to identify and group together similar objects.

TERMINOLOGY/FORMAT

The use of a controlled vocabulary is recommended, such as the AAT Attributes and Properties hierarchy.


Measurements - Size

DEFINITION

The conventional designation for the dimensions or proportion of a work, as determined by the type of object.

EXAMPLES

pint
quarto
elephant folio
medium
U.S. women's size 10
British men's medium
half-plate
A4

DISCUSSION

Sizes are distinguished from dimensions because, rather than being specific measurements, they are relative designations of magnitude. Works of the same "size" vary in actual dimensions, but share a common set of proportions.

Size designations are not standard, and therefore, conventional size designations in use when the work was created should be indicated, when known.

Industry sizes are not always accurate or consistent, and vary within certain tolerances. Some sizes, such as those for standard containers or bottles, are strictly regulated. Others, such as clothing sizes, are inconsistent. Sizes often vary by nationality. A women's size "12" in Great Britain differs from that in Canada or in the United States, and may be a size "40" in Europe. Sizes may also vary over time.

USES

Sizes help the art historian get a sense of the extent of the object by putting in relation to other known objects of the same size.

TERMINOLOGY/FORMAT

The use of a controlled vocabulary is recommended, such as the AAT Attributes and Properties hierarchy or the ACRL/RBMS Paper Terms.


Measurements - Scale

DEFINITION

The ratio between a work or object and the size of another work.

EXAMPLES

1:10
1/4 in. = 1 ft.
1-to-1
full-size [Figure 18]
life-size
monumental
scale upper left: ONE-HALF SCALE
bar scale lower center: 10 feet (10 ft. = 2 in.)
scale lower right: Trenta Palmi Romani (30 palmi romani = 114 mm)

DISCUSSION

SCALE is used to indicate the relationship between the size of a representation and that of the work it depicts, or the size of one work to another. Scale is often expressed as a numeric ratio of the scale of the object to the scale of the represented work. It may also be characterized by a phrase, such as full size. Scale may also be indicated by words such as monumental or colossal.

For some artists, such as Claes Oldenburg, scale also carries a particular meaning, forming part of the aesthetics of the work. A sense of the scale of a work makes it possible to assess its visual impact.

The type of scale that appears on the object should be indicated. This could include an inscribed scale, or a bar scale. It should also be clearly indicated when a scale has been derived by comparison or by conversion.

A scale may be inscribed on the object, as with maps or pattern drawings, where it may be indicated as a numerical ratio such as 1 in. = 1 ft., or as a bar with ruled divisions labeled with units. It is also possible to determine the scale of an image or model by comparing its dimensions to the dimensions of the work depicted. For example, if a model depicts a clock of the same size, [Figure 18] then the scale is 1-to-1, or full size.

USES

The scale of a work helps the researcher evaluate its size in relation to other objects and to understand its purpose.

When considering studies, maquettes, maps, or models, the comparative size of the object and the work depicted are important clues to the level of detail in the image.

ACCESS

A descriptive statement of scale will suffice for most researchers. However, if the scale is to be accessible, the prose descriptions in the above examples should be indexed with numeric values.

TERMINOLOGY/FORMAT

The use of a controlled vocabulary is recommended, such as the AAT Attributes and Properties hierarchy.


Measurements - Format

DEFINITION

A general term used to describe the configuration, proportion, or size of a work of art.

EXAMPLES

longline
3-column grid
tabloid
stations format
VHS
Beta
carte-de-visite
cabinet photograph
IMAX
DOS
vignette

DISCUSSION

This subcategory describes the configuration of the work. This term may also refer to standard technical formats, particularly in photography, film, video, printing, and computing. The information in this subcategory provides the researcher with a sense of the internal structure of the composition of the work. A knowledge of particular media may be required to identify the format of a work.

ACCESS

Researchers may wish to locate all objects of a certain format, as for example, all Beta format videotapes.

TERMINOLOGY/FORMAT

The use of a controlled vocabulary is recommended, such as ACRL/RBMS Paper Terms and ACRL/RBMS Type Evidence.


Measurements - Remarks

DEFINITION

Additional notes or comments pertinent to the measurement of a work, or the interpretation of evidence about the source of the measurements, which may include an assessment of the accuracy or precision, or offer explanations or elaborations on the work's size, shape, format, or scale.


Measurements - Citations

DEFINITION

The source from which the measurements were obtained.

__________

ENDNOTES

1 The AAT groups works such as videos and performance art under the guide term "<time-based works>."