Purpose - The study aims to investigate, through mapping analysis, the operation of knowledge organization systems (KOS) in different languages (English and Chinese), the types of term equivalence and the degree of similarity between different conceptual structures, and issues related thereto. Design/methodology/approach - Terms are selected from the Art & Architecture Thesaurus developed by Getty Research Institute in the USA (source language) and the National Palace Museum in Taiwan participating in Taiwan e-Learning and Digital Archives Program (target language). In respect of data analysis, mapping analysis and content analysis are both adopted. Findings - Among the six types of term equivalence, "exact equivalence" appears most frequently. The degree of similarity between different conceptual structures can be divided into four types: similar structure, transferring part of the structure of source language into the system of target language by modeling; similar structure, but the structure of source language needs to be expanded or revised; dissimilar structure, the term in target language can be partially mapped to the term in source language; lack of structure, no matches between target language and source language. Practical implications - The next step is to develop a more comprehensive conceptual structure that can incorporate multicultural perspectives. If the "partial equivalence" terms are further identified as important concepts, the problems of non-exact equivalence terms and dissimilar conceptual structures can be solved by addressing the needs of English users in searching for Chinese art collections. Originality/value - The study serves as a pilot study applicable to the development of multilingual KOS in the domain of Chinese fine arts, building the first demonstration model for the interoperability of KOS in Chinese and English.