Visual Anthropology

What subject headings are used for visual anthropology and what form/genre headings are used?

Subject headings are used for works on or about visual anthropology.

For works on visual anthropology in more than one form, the broader subject is used:

  • 650 _0 Visual anthropology.

For works on visual anthropology in one form, the more narrow subjects are used:

  • 650 _0 Motion pictures in ethnology.
  • 650 _0 Photography in ethnology.
  • 650 _0 Video recording in ethnology.

Also be aware that particular ethnic groups may be represented by subject headings as below:

  • 650 _0 Indigenous peoples in motion pictures.
  • 650 _0 Indians in motion pictures.

Form and genre headings are used when the item in the catalog is rather than about something.

Form/genre headings are designed to assist in retrieval by providing access points for the forms and genres of expressions. The intent of the use of these headings is to give access to the original expression not the manifestation, i.e., its physical carrier. So something originally released as a television program now available on DVD, would be an example of Ethnographic television programs, not an example of Ethnographic videos.

Library of Congress will soon be issuing authority records for genre headings.


  • “The first issuance of these records is now being readied. Library of Congress Subject Headings Weekly List 35, 2007 will include approximately 70 records for review at the CPSO [Library of Congress Cataloging Policy and Support Office] weekly editorial meeting to be held August 29, 2007. The authority records for the approved headings will subsequently be distributed by CDS [Library of Congress Cataloging Distribution Service] to its customers beginning September 11, 2007.”— CPSO website, viewed Aug. 15, 2007. The next phase of genre headings will be those for music, splitting up those things that are about a particular genre of music from those things that are a particular genre of music.

The following are valid LC subject headings (650), but can be used as form/genre headings (655).

  • 655 _0 Ethnographic films.
  • 655 _0 Ethnographic television programs.
  • 655 _0 Ethnographic videos.
  • 655 _0 Documentary films.
  • 655 _0 Documentary television programs.
  • 655 _0 Documentary videos.
  • 655 _0 Indian motion pictures. [proposed]

Other thesauri than Library of Congress Subject Headings can be used for form/genre terms. These are identified in the MARC record as: 655 _7 [Genre/form heading]. |2 [thesauri code]

The most frequent ones related to visual materials are:

Different online catalogs treat genre differently in the indexing so you may want to check with your cataloging and/or public services colleagues. Some catalogs have direct genre access, while others have keyword only access. If a user wants to retrieve both materials about a topic, such as ethnographic films, as well as materials that are ethnographic films, a keyword search should prove valuable.
For more information about the newly distributed form/genre authority records, visit:

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