Frequently Asked Questions

For general information about the Public Art Archive™ please visit our “About” page, here

What types of artworks are included in the Archive?
For the purposes of this database we are looking for artworks that are publicly visible and are sanctioned through some kind of official process. While artworks from every time period are eligible, works from 1965 to the present are most desired. Permanent, temporary, ephemeral and multi-media works are eligible. We recognize that the world of public art is massive and is constantly evolving. In the future we will contemplate adding categories like street art and performances but for now, we have enough to catalog using these two criteria.

How can I add my collection?
We are currently accepting content submissions to the Archive in two ways. If you have up to 20 entries to add, please go to the website. Here is a link to the call itself, including eligibility and required information. You can submit one entry for each artwork this way. Alternately, if you have more than 20 works to contribute, please see this document to begin, and email when you are ready for the import template.

The PAA team works with each public art administrator to advise on how to tackle this sometimes overwhelming project. We are happy to take a few records at a time, whenever it is convenient for you. Please do get in touch.

What information is required to add a collection?
Each artwork submitted to the Archive is represented by eight keystone fields including title, artist name(s), year the work was created or commissioned, street address where the work is located, type of work, material(s) used in its creation, description, and one image. While these are the minimum fields that each artwork currently requires, many more fields are available for those artworks with more details. In addition, we highly recommend that each artwork be represented by no fewer than three images in order to provide an accurate and complete representation of the work.

What kinds of files can the Public Art Archive™ accept?
The Archive can accommodate .jpg, .png, .pdf, .doc, .mp3, .mp4, and .mov files. Embedded links to third-party sites like and also allow videos to play in the page.

What is a collection showcase page?
The collection showcase page is an optional feature available to each organization that adds its collection to the Archive. There is a nominal annual licensing fee for the showcase. Content on the page can be updated on the fly by the collection administrator and includes rich media support and Google map tools for the entire collection. Agencies can use this page to cost effectively establish and maintain an online presence and allow their visitors to search within their collection, setting their program apart from the others in the Archive. See this page as an example.

What is the long-term vision for the Public Art Archive™?
The publicly searchable portion of the Public Art Archive is the first part of the project that will grow to become a centralized collections management tool for public art administrators and artists. With direct feedback from the field, WESTAF administrators will have the tools to publish information about an open call, manage applications as they are received all the way through the contracting and commissioning process, and perform and track maintenance tasks. Artists can find and apply to calls for entry, upload and organize example files of their artwork, and manage their applications through the adjudication and commissioning processes.

What Features Does the Archive Database Offer?
Sophisticated Searching: The Public Art Archive includes a powerful and intuitive search feature combined with various filters that allows you to narrow your results to explore easily, yet with exacting efficiency. The existing infrastructure of the database will allow users to continue to search with ease as the Archive grows. The “Browse By” feature allows you to easily browse the contents of the database by the categories being used.

Advanced Mapping: In addition to viewing a map of search results, individual artworks, and entire collections, Google’s complete suite of tools makes it easy to get directions, link, print, and save your map for later reference. Cultural tourists can create a map of works they want to visit and use their mobile device to access information about a piece while standing right in front of it. Administrators can create tours for annual maintenance tasks, public interest topics, advocacy initiatives and more. Google maps can even be used to increase the efficiency of conservation efforts, promote artworks to tourists, inform policy makers, educate citizens, and discover public art “deserts.”

Device-Responsive Web App: The Locate Public Art site allows visitors to easily access images and extensive data on works of public art. Use the geo-location feature to immediately find artworks near you as a list or on a map for on-the-go access to information, directions, and the tools to share your discovery with your social networks. The mobile site is free, requires no download, and is compatible with any device. Navigate to to start exploring today!

Data-Rich Media: To provide visitors with a comprehensive and rich visual experience, the Public Art Archive supports a wide variety of file formats. Every record can include up to 10 images, various types of audio and video, downloadable PDFs, and embedded video from sites like YouTube to create unique pages for each work.

Superior Showcasing: Create an online presence and highlight your collection within the Archive by licensing a showcase page that allows you to customize content on the fly. Provide vital information about your program, embed videos from sites like YouTube, and upload files that visitors can download with ease. Map your collection with the full suite of Google maps features, and link every artwork you place in the database back to your showcase page so visitors can search and explore your collection separately from the rest. Tailor the contents of your showcase page to highlight new artworks, bring attention to works that need conservation, brag about the local impact of your program, or showcase any other topic you think is important! You decide!

What standards are used in the PAA?
While other projects catalog the wealth of public art that exists in the United States and Canada, none have the sophisticated and sustainable foundation that the Archive does. We use the highest standards for metadata structure, descriptive taxonomies to describe artworks, sophisticated search platform, and mapping to make public art accessible to everyone. In addition, the financial support for the project is bolstered by a nonprofit organization with 40 years of experience in the arts field.

The Archive's database structure was developed in line with exacting standards used by major museums and cultural institutions. The Archive uses VRA Core 4.0, a powerful data standard created for the cultural heritage community by the Visual Resources Association's Data Standards Committee. The structure is used by the Digital Library Projects at Harvard University, ARTstor, and the Getty. Using a standardized structure to collect information about public art increases the value of the information for use in the academic community.

The vocabulary used in the Archive is compliant with the Getty Research Institute’s Art and Architecture Thesaurus, also used by well-known institutions such as the University of Washington Libraries, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Victoria and Albert Museum, and many others. The vast list of terms (over 131,000!) allows for standardized descriptions across the Archive, coupled with a flexibility that can accommodate new and emerging terms and descriptive language. Additionally, the Archive has been customized to include fields and data relationships that are specific to the public art domain. The Archive was built to utilize the best of museum collections' standards while offering functionality specific to public art collections management.

The Archive includes robust and intuitive search functionality. Solr is the popular, blazing-fast, open-source, enterprise search platform from the Apache Lucene project. Solr's major features include powerful full-text search and faceted search, which are used by sites like and The robust ability to search combined with intuitive search filters allow users to navigate effortlessly and explore the Archive easily, yet with exacting efficiency.

Google maps is integrated into the Public Art Archive. Users can see works on a map, get driving or walking directions, and save the map for later use. Cultural tourists can create a map of works they want to visit and use a mobile device to access information about a piece while physically standing in front of it. The mapping feature allows administrators to create tours for annual maintenance tasks, public interest topics, advocacy initiatives, and more.

What about partnerships?
The PAA project is interested in additional partnerships and collaborations and works to ensure that consistent and sustainable partnerships are created. If you are interested in partnering, please send an email to, and we will add you to the list.

Which collections are currently represented in the Archive?
Check out the Browse By Collections page to see! The list is growing all the time.

How do I find artworks in the Archive?
Start a search using any word that interests you! Try “Utah,” “mural,” “airport,” “wood,” “blue,” or any other term. From the search results page, you can narrow your search by artist name, date, placement, artwork type, and material. Click on the image or title of a work to see the full record including rich media and a Google map with the full suite of features.

What about security?
WESTAF has been developing and maintaining complex technology systems since 1998 and is proud to offer particular expertise in image management and a high level of system availability and security. Like all WESTAF technology systems, the Public Art Archive is hosted on a highly secure, multi-tier architecture deployed on a clustered server environment located in an offsite secure data center. Our backup protocol is invoked every 30 minutes for all data to ensure multiple copies of all data always exist in multiple locations. In addition, a purposefully underutilized network consisting of multiple high speed network providers ensures the type of redundancy necessary to make the Public Art Archive available from anywhere. WESTAF’s technical support and program development teams continually monitor all WESTAF systems for optimal availability, reliability, and integrity.

What about copyrights?
Every copyright holder retains their rights for any data and media that the Archive displays. WESTAF retains copyright over the compilation that is the Public Art Archive service.

Contact WESTAF
For more information about the Public Art Archive™, please visit our Contact page

Stay up to date!
Join the PAA mailing list here:
Follow @PAArchive on Twitter, “like” the Public Art Archive facebook page, and follow our Tumblr Blog!

Follow Us