Introduction to Geographic Headings

(Document in Progress)

Document sections

General introduction Special situations
Categories of geographic headings Verifying and establishing geographic headings

General Introduction

Geographic headings for place names may appear in geographic subject headings or as all or part of corporate body headings (as a government heading or as the government at the beginning of a government body heading).  The primary focus of this document will be on geographic subject headings.  The first two sections are intended primarily for copy cataloguers; the third section, "Special situations," contains information of interest to original cataloguers.

For additional information on geographic headings, see Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, 2nd ed., chapter 23, and the Subject Cataloging Manual:  Subject Headings, sections H690-H1055.

For additional information on qualifying geographic names and using them in geographic subdivision, see also “Geographic Headings and Subdivisions:  A Summary of Contrasting Structures.”

MARC Tagging:

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Categories of geographic headings

There are two broad categories of geographic headings.  The rules for the form of a geographic heading vary to some extent depending on the category.

Political jurisdictions
Non-jurisdictional headings

  1. Political jurisdictionsPlaces that have or had jurisdictional status on some level:  Such politically defined places -- e.g., countries, cities, and provinces -- could have governments that issue works and function as corporate authors.  A jurisdictional heading potentially serves a dual function; it may represent:

    E.g.    Argentina
    Buenos Aires (Argentina)
    Jefferson Parish (La.)
    North Yorkshire (England)

    The form of access point should be the same regardless of the function in a given bib record, whether it represents a responsible body or a subject, a government or a geographic area.  The basic rules for the construction of geographic jurisdictions are covered in AACR2 revised, Chapter 23, and its associated LCRI.  Additional rules appear in the Subject Cataloging Manual.

    Today, jurisdictions are set up as name authority records, with 010 record number prefix “n.”  Historically, however, they were sometimes set up as subject authority records, depending on the situation and the LC division (Descriptive Cataloging or Subject Cataloging) where they first came up.  Subject authority records have the 010 record number prefix “sh.”  While LC has made an effort to merge duplicate name and subject authority records for jurisdictions, you will sometimes find duplicate authority records for them.

    NACO libraries (including Tulane) may establish jurisdictional headings (NACO records have 010 prefixes beginning with “n,” e.g., “no” and “nr”).

    Please note:  As a government, a jurisdictional heading may also appear as the first element of a government body heading.

    E.g.    110 1    $a Argentina. $b Ministerio de Educación y Justicia

    Government body headings are treated according to rules and guidelines for corporate name headings, not geographic headings.  For corporate body authority work for OCLC-member copy, see "Summary of Interim Procedures for OCLC-Member Copy Authority Work."

  2. Non-jurisdictional headingsGeographic features or areas without jurisdictional status:  Such places do not have any political identity and could only relate to a work as subjects.

    Examples include:

    The rules for the construction of non-jurisdictional geographic headings appear in the Subject Cataloging Manual.  In the authority file, they are established as subject authority records, with 010 record number prefix “sh.”  They may not be established directly by NACO libraries, only through the SACO process of reporting suggested headings to LC.

    Some general features of non-jurisdictional headings:

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Special situations:    In Progress

Name changes Archaeological sites Russia and Soviet Union
Extinct cities Islands Parks, Reserves, Gardens, etc.

  1. Name changes:  Name changes and changes in territorial status or boundaries complicate the establishment and assigning of geographic headings.  For more information, consult the Subject Cataloging Manual, H708 (linear jurisdictional name changes) and H710 (jurisdictional mergers and splits).

    The appropriate heading or headings to use in your record may depend on:

    Therefore, historical jurisdictions — cities, kingdoms, or other jurisdictions that existed in the past but that no longer survive — may sometimes be valid as subject headings but sometimes only as name headings, with a modern name used in the subject heading.  Please check carefully all 667 and 680 scope notes in geographic authority records.

    (For extinct, ruined cities, see below, Extinct cities.)

    In subject cataloguing:

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  2. Extinct cities (H715):  Defined as any city, town, or other substantial settlement in the Eastern Hemisphere (“Old World”) that ceased to exist by 1500.

    E.g.    Troy (Extinct city)
    Leontopolis (Qaly¯ub¯iyah, Egypt : Extinct city)

    Cities in the Western Hemisphere that ceased to exist by 1500, i.e., Pre-Columbian settlements, are treated as archaeological sites.  In the Eastern Hemisphere, the distinction between an extinct city and an archaeological site is not always hard-and-fast; it can sometimes depend on the reference sources consulted at the time that a heading is established.

    To meet the definition of an extinct city, there should not have been both geographic and chronological continuity with a town or city that existed after 1500.  If a settlement known by an ancient name developed into a modern community, with the exact site continuously occupied, the heading for the modern community should be used, with the ancient name as a cross-reference.

    E.g.    The settlement of Lutetia, on the Seine River, developed into Paris.

    Heading:    151    Paris (France)
    Cross-reference:    451    Lutetia (France)
          [the cross-reference uses “France” as the qualifier
        simply because the heading does]

    On the other hand, if a city became ruined and abandoned, then another settlement happened to be established in or spread into the same place later — in other words, there was no chronological continuity — an extinct city heading is valid:

    E.g.    The ancient and mediaeval city of Carthage was destroyed, rebuilt, then eventually fell into ruin.
    From the 19th century, the modern Tunisian city of Tunis expanded to cover most of the site of Carthage, with a suburb called, in Arabic, Qar.t¯ajannah.

    2 headings:    151    Carthage (Extinct city)
                        151     Qar.t¯ajannah (Tunisia)

    If an extinct city is not located in the same place as a modern one of the same name — in other words, there is no geographic continuity — two separate headings are also justified.

    E.g.:   The remains of the ancient city of Sparta are located just outside the modern Greek town of Sparta.

    2 headings:    Sparta (Extinct city)
                         Sparta (Greece)

    Extinct cities are usually established as subject headings.  They may occasionally be valid as name headings, when use as a main or added entry is appropriate.

    For the use of qualifiers with extinct cities and their use in geographic subdivision, see “Geographic Headings and Subdivisions:  Extinct cities.”

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  3. Archaeological sites (H1225, section 3):

    Archaeological sites are generally established using the term “Site” and an appropriate qualifier.  (See also “Geographic Headings and Subdivisions:  Archaeological sites.”

    E.g.    Tulum Site (Mexico)
    Passo di Corvo Site (Italy)

    A distinctively named archaeological site that happens to be located within a modern city should be established as a site, qualified by the heading for the city.  Research is sometimes needed to determine whether a separate site heading is needed, or whether the heading for a modern settlement should be used, with the subdivision “$x Antiquities.”

    E.g.    Saraçhane Site (Istanbul, Turkey)

          but just

    Darrow (La.) $x Antiquities.
                [archaeological site at Darrow, Louisiana; the "Darrow site"]

    On the other hand, sites located outside of modern settlements should be established separately, even if the names are the same.

    E.g.    Chiapa de Corzo Site (Mexico)
                [archaeological site located near the town of Chiapa de Corzo]

    Chiapa de Corzo (Mexico)
                [modern town]

    A site that is called “Cave,” “Rockshelter,” or “Mound” should be established using the word “Cave” or “Mound” rather than “Site.”

    E.g.    Altamira Cave (Spain)
                [a prehistoric site, located in a cave]

    Klein-Aspergle Mound (Germany)
                [a Celtic burial mound]


    Newgrange Site (Ireland)
                [a mound site, but not generally referred to as a mound]

    Monsú Site (Colombia)
                [a mound site, but not referred to as a named mound in the source found]

    Middle Eastern archaeological mound sites, a category known as “tell” (a common romanization) or “tall” (standard LC romanization), are often established using a form of this term, unless the site qualifies as an extinct city.

    E.g.    Kowm, Tall (Syria)
                [cross-reference: “Kowm Site (Syria)”]

    Tell el-Amarna (Egypt)
                [although some might have established it as “Akhetaton (Extinct city)”]

    Dayr ‘All¯a, Tall (Jordan)


    Gezer Site (Israel)
                [cross-reference: “Tell Gezer (Israel),” etc.]

    In practice, a few other (often fairly well known) archaeological sites have been established without a “Site” qualifier.

    E.g.    Stonehenge (England)
    Grimes Graves (England)

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  4. Islands  (H807)

    While many islands are jurisdictions in their own right --

    E.g.    Madagascar
                [heading represents the country as well as the island]

    -- others are simply geographic features that are part of jurisdictions.

    E.g.    Cat Island (Miss.)
                [barrier island off the coast, part of the state of Mississippi]

    The main complications relating to island headings involve the appropriate qualifier and use in geographic subdivision.  For more information on these topics, see “Geographic Headings and Subdivisions:  Islands” and “Geographic Headings and Subdivisions:  Places on islands.”

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  5. Russia and Soviet Union  (H1023):  For subject heading purposes:

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  6. Parks, Reserves, Gardens, etc.   (H1925)

    Scope:  This category includes

    Please note:

    Heading form:  For those headings treated along the model of names of parks, certain special rules apply.  While tagged as geographic headings and not truly jurisdictional headings, in some ways they are treated more as corporate headings.  The heading should be:

    Qualifiers, however, follow the standard patterns for qualifiers for geographic headings.

    E.g.    151     $a Nationale Park De Hoge Veluwe (Netherlands)
    E.g.    151     $a Tongariro National Park (N.Z.)
    E.g.    151     $a Nationalpark Neusiedler See-Seewinkel (Austria and Hungary)
    E.g.    151     $a Waterberg Plateau Park (Namibia)

    E.g.    151     $a Audubon Park (New Orleans, La.)
    E.g.    151     $a Passeio Público (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)     [1st public park in the Americas]
    E.g.    151     $a Tawau Hills Park (Tawau, Sabah)

    E.g.    151     $a Area de Protección de Flora y Fauna Maderas del Carmen (Mexico)
    E.g.    151     $a Refugio de Fauna Silvestre Rafael Lucas Rodríguez Caballero (Costa Rica)
    E.g.    151     $a Kakamega Forest Reserve (Kenya)
    E.g.    151     $a Cockscomb Forest Reserve/Jaguar Preserve (Belize)

    E.g.    151     $a Indiana Dunes State Park (Ind.)
    E.g.    151     $a Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore (Ind.)
    E.g.    151     $a Cartier Island Marine Reserve (Ashmore and Cartier Islands)
    E.g.    151     $a Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway (Wis. and Minn.)

    E.g.    151     $a Kokoda Trail (Papua New Guinea)
    E.g.    151     $a South West Coast Path (England)
    E.g.    151     $a Murava Road (Ukraine and Russia)      [found in English-language reference sources]
    E.g.    151     $a Grande Randonnée Cinq (Trail)      [located in more than 2 countries]

    E.g.    151    $a Garden of Cosmic Speculation (Scotland)    [locally established only]
    E.g.    151    $a Majorelle Gardens (Marrakech, Morocco)
    E.g.    151    $a Giardino del Lago (Rome, Italy)
    E.g.    151    $a Shalamar Garden (Lahore, Pakistan)

    E.g.    151    $a Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial (Ind.)
    E.g.    151    $a Columna de la Independencia (Mexico City, Mexico)
    E.g.    151    $a New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park (La.)
    E.g.    151    $a Saint Croix National Heritage Area (V.I.)

    E.g.    151     $a Disneyland Paris (Marne-la-Vallée, France)
    E.g.    151     $a Parque Rodó (Montevideo, Uruguay)
    E.g.    151     $a Tivoli (Copenhagen, Denmark)

    Cross-references are needed for variant forms, including:

    E.g.    151     $a Nationale Park De Hoge Veluwe (Netherlands)
    451     $a De Hoge Veluwe, Nationale Park (Netherlands)
    451     $a Hoge Veluwe National Park (Netherlands)

    E.g.    151     $a Nacionalni park Plitvi?ka jezera (Croatia)      [Plitvicka:  Plitvic-hacek-ka]
    451     $a Plitvica Lakes National Park (Croatia)

    E.g.    151     $a Giardino del Lago (Rome, Italy)
    451     $a Garden of the Lake (Rome, Italy)

    E.g.    151     $a Refugio de Fauna Silvestre Rafael Lucas Rodríguez Caballero (Costa Rica)
    451     $a Rafael Lucas Rodríguez Caballero, Refugio de Fauna Silvestre (Costa Rica)

    E.g.    151     $a Frihedsstøtten (Copenhagen, Denmark)
    451     $a Freedom's Pillar (Copenhagen, Denmark)
    451     $a Liberty Monument (Copenhagen, Denmark)

    E.g.    151     $a Arisugawa no Miya Kinen K¯oen (Tokyo, Japan)
    451     $a Prince Arisugawa Memorial Park (Tokyo, Japan)

    E.g.    151     $a Garden of Cosmic Speculation (Scotland)    [locally established only]
    451     $a Cosmic Speculation, Garden of (Scotland)

    E.g.    151     $a¯iyat al-Jubayl lil-Ihy¯a’¯iyah (Saudi Arabia)
    451     $a Al Jubail Marine Wildlife Sanctuary (Saudi Arabia)
    451     $a Jubail Marine Wildlife Sanctuary (Saudi Arabia)

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Verifying and establishing geographic headings

The following sources should be consulted, generally in this order, until you have found an appropriate established heading in an authority file or until you have collected enough information from other sources to establish a heading.

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Geographic Headings and Subdivisions

draft, 6 January-11 February 2000; revised 18 May 2003, 11 October 2007, 16 October 2007

HTML document last reviewed:  16 October 2007; section "Verifying and establishing geographic headings" updated 22 April 2009