Subject Headings for Indigenous Textile Materials

ANSS Subject and Bibliographic Access Committee
Question/Answer on cataloging issues – July 2015

By Isabel del Carmen Quintana, Harvard University

Question: What are the correct subject headings for indigenous textile materials?

There are a number of different subject headings that cover traditional or indigenous textile materials. However, there is no term “indigenous textiles” in the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH). This is partly because LC has traditionally used other terms for these concepts.

The LCSH term for textiles is “Textile fabrics,” and this can be subdivided by place. Therefore, you can use:

Textile fabrics—Indonesia

Textile fabrics—Panama

and so on. The issue here, of course, is that the terms cover all textiles for that area, not just the textiles made according to traditional means or patterns.

In order to get more specific, the term “Textile fabrics” can also be used with an ethnic group qualifier to signify the textiles of a particular ethnic group. Unfortunately, the ethnic group is used in different positions as a qualifier depending on whether the ethnic group is for Indians of the Western Hemisphere, or any other ethnic group.

For Indian textile fabrics, we can use the general term “Indian textile fabrics,” or we can use the name of the ethnic group as a qualifier before the phrase “textile fabrics.” For example:

Inuit textile fabrics

Mapuche textile fabrics

Navajo textile fabrics

Tewa textile fabrics

and so on. These can be subdivided geographically.

For other ethnic groups, we put the ethnic group qualifier AFTER the term “textile fabrics” For example:

Textile fabrics, Ainu

Textile fabrics, Dayak

Textile fabrics, Pennsylvania Dutch

Textile fabrics, Senufo

and so on. These can also be subdivided geographically.

Although it would be great to have the subject headings formulated the same way, there is always a cross-reference from the inverted or non-inverted form, so our patrons can find the correct term either way. However, these terms are established as new subject headings as LC/PCC receives material on that subject. Therefore, if a particular library has an extensive collection of materials on textiles, they may have used subject headings set up according to the above pattern, but they probably would not have established the corresponding subject heading authority record with the cross references. It is helpful to know whether these terms are set up in inverted or non-inverted form.

There are also many terms established for individual textile fabrics or techniques. For example:



and so on. These can also be subdivided geographically.

Finally, there are a number of specific terms for various textiles that can be qualified by ethnic groups. For example:

Akwete cloth

Navajo rugs

and so on. These can also be subdivided geographically.

In summary, although there is no LCSH for “indigenous textile fabrics,” there is a term for “Indigenous art” and it has the following scope note: “Here are entered general works on the art of indigenous peoples, not limited to a particular racial or ethnic group. Works discussing collectively the traditional art of the preliterate and nonindustrialized peoples of the world are entered under Art, Primitive. Works on indigenous or primitive art from a specific place or specific people are entered under the heading for the art of that place or people, e.g. Art, Polynesian; Inca art.” (Emphasis added by author.)

If LC/PCC were to receive material whose subject was the indigenous textiles of a number of ethnic groups, not limited to a few and not limited to the Western Hemisphere, for which we would use “Indian textile fabrics,” it seems that the term could be established. However, for now, we use the usually more specific terms as qualified above.