Using the Archive

Image as example of the search box.

The basic search looks at the content of all fields, but not the names of the fields. Search Federal instead of Federal style.

If an advanced search doesn’t give the results you expect, try a basic search instead.

Don’t know what term to search? Browse the collection or the Furniture Guide for ideas.

Search Tips

Click the Search icon in the upper right corner of every page to start a new search or advanced search. A basic search will look at every field in an object record. The advanced search allows you to restrict a search to certain fields.

Metadata Fields

Information in the Archive is derived from close inspection of objects, examination of photographs of objects, data submitted by owners, and information contained in the Winterthur Library’s Decorative Arts Photographic Collection. Catalog data is organized into the fields described below. Not every field is used for every object; each object record displays only the fields for which there is information. In cases of scholarly question or disagreement, multiple options may be listed within one field. For example, if it is uncertain whether a piece was made in Boston or Salem, Massachusetts, both locations will appear under Place of origin. Please review the entire object record to learn of any qualifications to the data. When available, the source of an attribution is identified.

For more information on any of these fields, click the field name or scroll down the page.

BFA number

The unique identifier of each object in the Boston Furniture Archive. All BFA numbers have three parts: the prefix "DAPC" for the Winterthur Library's Decorative Arts Photographic Collection; the year in which the object was first documented for DAPC or the Archive (four digits); and a number identifying where the object fell in the sequence of objects cataloged in a given year (four digits). The BFA number is distinct from the accession number assigned by an owner; that information is listed under Owner's accession number.

Example: DAPC_2014-0110

Object name

The specific form of an object. This is the narrowest categorization of an object's function. Object name labels a specific approach to design and construction within the general framework of an object type. Visit the Furniture Guide: Function to learn about the terminology for this field.

Example: Windsor chair

Object use

The general function of an object. This is the broadest categorization of an object's function, defined in terms of the human need an object addresses. Visit the Furniture Guide: Function to learn about the terminology for this field.

Example: Seating furniture

Object type

The general form of an object. This is an intermediate categorization of an object's function, more specific than object use and broader than object name. Object type labels the general form created in response to a need or function. Visit the Furniture Guide: Function to learn about the terminology for this field.

Example: Chair


Identifies one or more individuals, companies, or manufacturers who contributed to the production of an object. Where documented, listings include the maker's name, role in production, and life dates. In the case of companies, dates of operation are shown in place of life dates. The names of individual makers are listed with last name first; the names of companies are listed as they appear in period documentation. This field contains makers to whom objects are documented or attributed. It also includes makers to whom pieces were once attributed. See the Basis of maker attribution for more information.

Basis of maker attribution

Explains why a maker is associated with an object and the degree of certainty with which the association is made. The association could be through documentation, characteristics of design or construction, or previous publication.

Place of origin

Identifies one or more specific locations of production. If there are multiple possible places of origin, all are listed. If there is evidence an object was made in a specific community, it is listed. Otherwise, entries are listed as Vicinity of Boston, Massachusetts.

Basis of place of origin

Explains why a place is associated with an object and the degree of certainty with which the association is made. The association could be through documentation, association with a maker, or previous publication.


The date or date range of production. Date ranges may reflect either a maker's dates of production or an approximation based on the object's characteristics of design and construction. Dates in this field are not qualified with circa or about. See the Basis of date for more information.

Basis of date

Explains why a date or date range has been assigned and the degree of certainty with which the assignment is made.


Identifies one or more furniture styles reflected in a piece. Visit the Furniture Guide: Styles to learn about the terminology for this field.


Identifies one or more materials used in the construction of an object, including woods, metals, textiles, and other components. If wood species can be identified, they are listed by the common name of the tree. Use the Furniture Guide: What Does It Mean? to look up scientific or other common names for trees. See the Basis of materials for more information.

Basis of materials

Explains why, when, or how the materials have been identified and the degree of certainty with which the identification is made. This information is rarely recorded in object documentation.

Attributes and techniques

Identifies one or more characteristics of design or construction. Terms used in this field are taken from the Getty Research Institute's Art & Architecture Thesaurus [link]. Visit the Furniture Guide: Elements to learn how the Archive defines this terminology.

Marks, signatures, inscriptions

Documents any deliberate markings or text on an object. Where possible, the type, location, and transcription of the notation are included. Transcribed material is set off with square brackets. Line breaks are indicated with slashes. If the object has been examined in person and no markings have been located, the entry None found is used. If the object has not been examined in person and there is no documentation of markings, the field is left blank.


Text detailing the appearance and/or construction of an object. This field may include notes on condition, repairs, replacements, or additions.


The height, width, depth, length, and/or diameter of a piece in inches and centimeters. Dimensions of objects not examined in person are taken from existing documentation. Objects examined in person are measured to the nearest one-eighth of an inch and recorded to three decimal places. English measurements are converted to metric measurements by multiplying the number of inches by 2.54 and rounding to the nearest tenth of a centimeter.

Example: Height 40.38 in. (102.6 cm), Width 26.75 in. (67.9 cm), Depth 16.75 in. (42.5 cm)

Associated objects

The BFA numbers or other identifying numbers of associated objects such as pieces in a set or suite of furniture.

History of ownership

The provenance of a piece. If an object has been sold at auction, the auction house, location, sale, date, and lot number are recorded if known.

Exhibition history

Special exhibitions or traveling exhibitions in which an object has been featured. Where possible, listings include the title, location(s), and date(s) of an exhibition. Associated exhibition catalog entries are listed in Bibliography.

Example: Exhibition: "The Work of Many Hands: Card Tables in Federal America," Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, CT, March 25-May 30, 1982)


References to a specific object. When available, listings include page-level citations.

Article: John H. Hill, “The History and Technique of Japanning and the Restoration of the Pimm Highboy,” American Art Journal 8, no. 2 (November 1976): 59-84.


Relevant keywords or entries from the Library of Congress Name Authority and Subject Heading list.


The historical, cultural, social, or economic relevance of an object.

Current owner

The last known owner of an object. Institutional owners are listed by name. Private owners are listed as "Private collection."


Donation or purchase credit line provided by institutional owners.

Owner’s accession number

The unique identifier of an object as assigned by its owner.


Contact information for rights and reproduction requests. The Winterthur Library is the point of contact for objects digitized from the Library's Decorative Arts Photographic Collection and for some other objects, including those in private collections. Institutional owners are the points of contact for objects cataloged specifically for inclusion in the Boston Furniture Archive.


The source of an image. Some objects may be documented by multiple photos with different sources; if this is the case, the "Source" field will appear in the description associated with each individual photo.

Date digitized

The date on which an object was added to the Boston Furniture Archive online database.

Date modified

The date of the most recent revision to an object record.

All materials are copyrighted by Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library or by participating institutions.

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