The SDBM Name Authority

The SDBM Name Authority governs certain data fields within the database. Using the Name Authority is important for two reasons. The use of authority names helps to maintain consistency in spelling and naming conventions, thereby increasing the quality of search results within the database. Secondly, authority names within records allow you to link to other Entries​, Sources​, and Manuscript Records​ associated with that person or institution. The result is a rich source of data about manuscript collectors and repositories.

The SDBM Name Authority contains standardized names of people and institutions associated with the transmission of manuscripts across time and place. Data fields that utilize authority names include: Artist, Author, Buyer, Provenance Agent, Scribe, Seller, and Selling Agent. When available, SDBM Names include Virtual International Authority File (VIAF) ID numbers, and follow the standardized format of the name as provided in VIAF. However, many SDBM Names refer to repositories, scribes, and other persons related to the provenance of manuscripts not found in VIAF’s aggregated authority files, and their standardized names only exist within the SDBM. In such cases, we ask users to create authority names following our own data standards (see below).

We need your help to identify obscure names, and provide discussion areas within the Name records themselves as well as at our community Forum to encourage conversations about mysterious identities. Our goal is to become a VIAF contributor to broaden access to and research on this data.


How to contribute to the SDBM Name Authority

Create Names:
Add names to the authority when entering data, using the Naming Standards outlined below.

Confirm Names:
Anyone and multiple people can confirm a name, especially names without VIAF IDs. View a Name record to see how many confirmations it has received.

Edit Names:
Editors can edit Name records; search for VIAF numbers; merge duplicate records to ensure clean data.

Discuss Names:
Post in the Name Authority messageboard in the Forum to start discussions with other SDBM users. You can also leave comments on individual Name records. This is a great way to share new information and discuss inconsistencies.

Name Game:​
Anyone can play the De Ricci Digitized Archive Name Game. Click here to learn more.

Quality Control:
SDBM Admins will review and approve all new names to ensure that they conform to our standards.


SDBM Naming Standards

Names created in the SDBM Name Authority should follow these basic formatting guidelines:

  • For individuals, give Last Name, First Name, Title, Life Dates:
    Phillipps, Thomas, Sir, 1792-1872
    Theodora, Empress, consort of Justinian I, Emperor of the East, -548
    Proba, active 4th century
    Master of Delft, approximately 1470-

  • For institutions, give name of city or governing institution if not included in the institution’s name. For abbeys, monasteries, convents, churches, etc., give city name and institution type or name:
    • Aulne Abbey
      Winchester Cathedral
      Houghton Library, Harvard University

Levels of Certainty

We organize our Names into three different categories according to the Name’s degree of ambiguity regarding the identity of the person or institution to which it refers. SDBM Admins review all newly added Names.


Approved Names: meet the baseline standard for entry into the SDBM, as described in the SDBM Naming Standards.


Confirmed Names: include additional data that provides evidence of a unique individual or institution, such as life dates, a VIAF ID number, or a citation to another resource that provides similar identifying information. Click the Thumbs Up button to confirm. There is no limit to how many times a Name may be confirmed, and we encourage users to confirm Names as often as possible, especially when a Name has no VIAF number. The more users that confirm the data of a Name, the more reliable that data appears.


Disputed Names: If you encounter a Name whose identity you disagree with, you may dispute the Name by clicking the Thumbs Down button. If you dispute a Name, leave a comment describing why you disputed it.


Problem Records: are Names that do not describe a unique person or institution, such as a single Last Name or First Name, or a generic institutional name. Users should contribute additional information to elevate the record into the approved or confirmed status.


If your data source provides an ambiguous name, such as only a last name, or a very common first and last name, we encourage you to do additional research, in the SDBM Name Authority or elsewhere, to better determine the specific identity of the person. If you cannot produce a name that corresponds to the SDBM Naming Standards, do not add the name to the Name Authority.