Nomenclature 4.0 can be used to catalog digital objects.  It allows museums to record information about the format (e.g., “Document, Digital”) for certain objects in the “Art,” “Documentary Objects,” and “Exchange Media” classes.

An increasing proportion of the objects managed by museums are digital (for example, documents, artworks, photographs, and sound or video recordings in electronic format). Some of these materials are “born digital” and some are digitized from analog sources.


By Acrylictouch (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Only those digital objects that are actually a part of the museum collection (and not part of the collections documentation) are accessioned.  This is often the case when the digital object is a born-digital original (e.g. born-digital artworks or photos), not a derivative.  But in some unique cases, digital objects that are derivative (those created by converting from an analog source, e.g., scanning a photograph) may also be accessioned as part of the museum’s formal collection.

Terminology in Nomenclature’s Category 6: Tools and Equipment for Communication for describing the physical media used to store the digital file (e.g., “Diskette,” “Drive, Flash,” “Videodisc”) or for describing the applications that are used to create the digital objects (e.g., “Software, Word Processing,” “Software, Email”) are not sufficient to name and classify the digital file itself.

In general, the digital object should be named just as a physical equivalent would be. For example: a digital photograph is still a photograph; a digital report is still a report; a digital ticket is still a ticket. So their object names should be “Photograph,” “Report,” and “Ticket.”

However, the object’s “digital” status should also be reflected in its object name (as a cross-reference) to make it possible for the museum to find all of its digital materials. Alternatively, the museum may choose to record the fact that the object is a digital object in a separate field.

For example, a born-digital drawing or photograph depicting a ship could be cataloged as follows:

  • Object name field—use “Drawing” or “Photograph”
  • Object name field—also use “Art, Digital” or “Document, Digital”
  • Subject field—use “Ship” (or term from an appropriate subject authority)

Although the primary name for this object is “Drawing” or “Photograph,” the fact that it is a digital object should also be recorded. This can be done by adding a cross-reference in the object name field or recording the information in another field.

Nomenclature 4.0 includes new terms for digital objects within three different classes within the “Communication Objects” category—“Art,” “Documentary Objects,” and “Exchange Media.”

Capture of Textbox Digital Objects - modified2These terms for digital objects can be used in combination (cross-indexed) with another object name to describe the content.  For more information on how to catalog digital objects, see the Users’ Guide within Nomenclature 4.0.