The Built Works Registry (BWR) is a collaborative project funded by a 2010 National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The goal of BWR is to create and develop a freely available registry and data resource for architectural works and the built environment. The Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library at Columbia University, ARTstor and the Getty Research Institute are the principal collaborators for this project. An international advisory council provide ongoing guidance on BWR development.
Prior to the establishment of BWR, there was no one authority or registry which could assist with the identification of a built work. Built work creators and locations are often identified in metadata records and controlled by community standards (e.g. LCNAF, ULAN, TGN, GNIS), but there is no community-wide list of the names of built works themselves. Given this, the identification of architectural works and the built environment presented a unique challenge for scholars and catalogers. BWR was conceived and developed to address this need.
Every built work included in BWR will be assigned a unique identifier number or BWR ID, as well as a BWR preferred name. The BWR ID will serve that same purpose as the ISBN/ISSN system does in the world of publishing and provide a standardized system by which a built work can be identified. For example, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater near Mill Run, Pennsylvania, is also known as the Edgar J. Kaufmann Sr. Residence or simply the Kaufman House–often confused with the Kaufmann Desert House, a Richard Neutra-designed residence in Palm Springs,California. BWR’s goal is to disambiguate existing local work authority files which like the example above illustrates, may identify and catalog the built environment in different ways. In this particular example, a BWR ID number would be assigned to a built work which is known by several different names. BWR would also assign a preferred name and all of the other names would be listed as alternative names.
A key feature of BWR is the collaborative nature of the project. As a networked, distributed environment, BWR will allow contributors from throughout the global community to participate in the development and maintenance of this community-generated resource. Initially, BWR’s records will be derived from records contributed by libraries and cultural repositories, contributions from interested individuals will come to represent a significant portion of BWR’s content over time.
As an international registry for the built environment, the establishment of and continued growth of BWR is an important first step toward the creation of a fully integrated and inclusive built works authority file, which at this time does not exist. Towards this goal BWR will serve as one of the core contributors to the Getty Research Institute’s planned Cultural Objects Name Authority (CONA). When completed CONA will contain authority records for cultural works, including architecture, the built environment, as well as movable works such as paintings and sculpture.