Integrated Authority File

We update entries on persons as well as subject headings in social and cultural anthropology in the Integrated Authority File (Gemeinsame Normdatei, GND) and relate them comprehensively.

What is the GND?

The Integrated Authority File (Gemeinsame Normdatei, GND) is a standardised index of persons, corporate bodies, congresses, geographies, subject headings and work titles. Standardisation here means that such entities become uniquely identifiable, for example through the controlled spelling of names and keywords.

The GND was created as a genuine library tool, and the standardised terms have so far mainly been used for the cataloguing of literature in libraries. A controlled vocabulary is essential for future automated subject indexing - i.e. description based on content - for (digital) texts.

Increasingly, the GND is also being used in archives, museums, various project contexts and on the web. It is intended to develop into a more widely used instrument for the uniform description and thus the linkability of content. For example, work is already underway on a systematic link between the GND and Wikipedia. The GND is located at the German National Library (DNB) in Frankfurt, but numerous other libraries and library networks are involved in its processing and maintenance.

Advantages for research

A GND supplemented by missing and updated anthropological terms provides a more precise and at the same time consistent repertoire of terms for a higher quality of indexing for literature, research data and academic estates. Scholars can use the terms contained therein to keyword their own essays.

The additional search entries thus created, including integrated synonym references, create better research results. At the same time, the visibility and findability of publications are increased. Developments in the field of text and data mining and any semantic networking also require such a vocabulary. On this basis, for example, distributed databases can be better located and linked with each other in the future. In addition, people can be clearly referenced and names can be supplemented with biographical data.

Current status

In addition to library rules and regulations, the volume of publications - i.e. the content and terms available in publications - has determined, which terms have been created as keyword lists in the standards file. Until now, this has led to missing terms, and comprehensive links between terms were hardly possible. From the perspective of anthropological disciplines, there was a lack of resources for the continuous maintenance and enrichment of the file. At the same time, many of those involved lacked a specific anthropological background. For this reason, the GND is not complete and is not characterised by a comprehensive thesaurus structure.

With regard to subject terms, a recurring problem is the fundamental tension between an intended universal language (which should be as universally understandable as possible) versus the perspectivity and historicity of knowledge and terms. In addition, there are some specific problems and gaps for the word inventory of the GND, which is particularly relevant for ethnological research. These include, for example, the fact that important technical terms and methodological concepts of modern ethnology are either completely missing from the GND or are present in outdated, even problematic forms. This also includes the question of foreign and self-designations of groups. Moreover, links between terms are missing, which are necessary for the construction of a dense network structure. Subject-relevant persons are also sometimes not listed or the data sets are too lacking in information. An improvement can only be achieved in exchange with subject representatives, especially where subject-specific categories and classifications are addressed. Only in this way the GND can become an accepted tool for anthropological research in the future.

Project goals

Accordingly, the main goal is to change and add missing or outdated terms as well as person records. In addition, a comprehensive linking of subject terms is to be carried out, with recourse to synonyms, related terms and hierarchical references to create a network of keywords that is as dense as possible. Since many terms are not used uniformly in research and are often disputed, intensive co-operation with specialist academic communities is necessary. In the process, the needs of scholars and scientists are to be determined and integrated into the expansion of the GND. In addition, the project envisages the creation of a handout for researchers. This will explain basic concepts and provide assistance with research in the GND. A webinar is also planned for librarians who look after anthropological collections. To support librarian work, a comprehensive mapping of different thesauri could be created in the future and cross-concordances could be worked out. Furthermore, the addition of GND-based register terms to the Regensburger Verbundklassifikation (RVK, Regensburg Union Classification) is planned. This should make it easier and more precise to assign system locations.


Moritz Strickert, M.A.

Telefon: +49 30 2093-99250