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A collection of research resources for art history, museum studies, and the creation of art.

For more assistance, contact: Elise Ferer, Liaison Librarian, 245-1085.

Additional information about finding images and using them appropriately can be found on the Art Department's Visual Resources Center website.

FYS Process and Invention in the Arts

FYS Picturing Health, Disease and Medicine


Important Information about the Research Process

What Is a Good Source?

During the course of your research, it is important to consult a variety of sources, including print and online. On-line resources are convenient in that they can be accessed outside the library, but they do not represent the complete range of information available in any discipline. Many of the rich resources owned by the Library, both primary and secondary, are available in print. Your liaison can help you locate appropriate resources for your topic.

Some sources you discover may not be available in Dickinson's collection. When beginning the research process, be sure to build in enough time to order materials through Interlibrary Loan. Most, but not all, requests, will arrive within 5 - 7 work days.

A good researcher is defined by the willingness and ability to follow leads and being able to evaluate a source for its reliability and usefulness. Clues to important and reliable information come from many places. Secondary sources are often good places to start the research project, as their footnotes and bibliographies can provide you with leads to primary sources and other important secondary works.

How to Start Looking for Sources

Developing a list of keywords for your project is vital for your bibliographic search, for your note taking and for shaping your final paper. A keyword is simply an important word or short phrase relating to your research. Keywords can be a person's name, a book title, a place, an organization or a subject. You can often use keywords to conduct a search of the Dickinson College Library Catalog, electronic databases, or printed indexes. As you begin to research your topic, you will discover additional keywords that describe your subject.
Subject Headings
A subject heading is a specific word or phrase used to find and organize books and articles by topic. Subject headings are different from keywords in that they are specific terms assigned to a subject by an organization. For example, the Library of Congress supplies subject headings for books owned by Dickinson College (and other libraries), and the company that provides the Art Abstracts database supplies subject headings for the articles indexed in that database.
These subject headings, also known as subject descriptors, may not be what you would expect. You might, for instance, go to our catalog and search for autobiographies. The Library of Congress often uses the term "personal narrative' instead of autobiography.
Library of Congress Subject headings can often be found on the page of a book that provides the publisher's information. The subject heading can then be used to search for a book or article when copied exactly as printed. Another way to figure out what the key words or subject descriptors are for your subject would be to enter the title of a book on the subject that is in our library. Then look at the bottom of the record and find the subject descriptors.
In the library catalog and many electronic databases, an items's subject(s) will be hyperlinked, so that you can click on the subject heading to find similar items. You also might want to note the exact words for future use.
This is an example of a book in the library catalog with numerous subject headings:
Raphael, Dürer and Marcantonio Raimondi: Copying and the Italian Renaissance Print
Personal author: Pon, Lisa.
Publication info: New Haven, Conn. : Yale University Press, 2004.
Physical description: 216 p. : ill. (some col.) ; 26 cm.
Bibliography note: Includes bibliography (p. 202-211) and index.
Personal subject: Raimondi, Marcantonio, ca. 1480-ca. 1534--Criticism and interpretation.
Personal subject: Raphael, 1483-1520--Criticism and interpretation.
Personal subject: Dürer, Albrecht, 1471-1528.--Criticism and interpretation.
Personal subject: Vasari, Giorgio, 1511-1574.--Criticism and interpretation.
Subject: Engraving, Italian.
Subject: Engraving--16th century.
Subject: Art, Italian--Reproduction--History--16th century.
Subject: Prints--Italy--Copying--History--16th century.
Subject: Artistic collaboration--Italy--History--16th century.

Expanding or Narrowing Your Search

Words such as AND, OR, and NOT are used to combine search terms to broaden or narrow a search in an electronic database. AND will narrow your search; for example, the search "cats AND dogs" returns items that contain both the terms cats and dogs (both terms must appear in the record). OR will broaden your search; for example, the search "cats OR dogs" will return items that contain either the term cat or the term dog - both not necessarily both. NOT will exclude specific items, thereby narrowing your search slightly. For example, the search "medieval history and (Italy NOT Florence)" will exclude any items on medieval history dealing with the city of Florence, but will include any other books or articles written about medieval history in the rest of Italy.

Encyclopedias and Dictionaries for Art History, Creative Arts & Museum Studies

Encyclopedias and dictionaries are helpful in finding basic information about your topic area. They may also serve as sources of inspiration to you as you search for new topics to research. The following list is not comprehensive. Search the Dickinson College Library Catalog for more encyclopedias and dictionaries. Contact your librarian for assistance.


Grove Art Online provides web access to the entire text of The Dictionary of Art, ed. Jane Turner (1996, 34 vols.) and The Oxford Companion to Western Art, ed. Hugh Brigstocke (2001). Grove Art offers ongoing additions of new and updated articles, over 3,000 thumbnail art images and line drawings displayed in the text of articles, extensive image links, and sophisticated search and navigation tools.

Includes almost 500 encyclopedic titles from respected publishers in all disciplines taught at Dickinson, including various language dictionaries, the Marquis Who’s Who series and numerous other biographical sources, economics and business encyclopedias, food and agriculture sources, publishing sources, atlases, and many encyclopedias covering the arts, history, literature, science, technology, religion, philosophy, politics, psychology, geography and country studies, and more.

The Focal Encyclopedia of Photography Essential reference on photography.


Some examples of encyclopedias about the arts you can find in the Reference collection include:

REF N71 .P32 1997
REF G1046 .E64 S7 1994 (in Technical Services)
REF Z695.1 .A7 A76 1994 (in Technical Services)
REF N25 .E53 1983
REF N5300 .I45 1984

Images of Art and Architecture

More information about finding images and using them appropriately can be found on the Art Department's Visual Resources Center website.

The following databases allow you to search for high-quality images of famous and lesser known works of art.

A massive collection of images covering art, architecture, and archeology, made up of several distinct image collections. Collections can be searched as a whole or individually. It is necessary to turn off your browser's pop-up blocker for ARTstor to work properly. Recommended instructions for using ARTstor are available at YouTube or via our Tutorial.

Offers access to resources in fashion and related fields. Includes the full-text of the Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion, and an extensive color image bank. Useful for research in fashion, theatre & dance, anthropology, art history, history, american studies, and cultural studies.

A database of Christian art which contains over 20,000 work of art records which are accompanied by over sixty thousand images in color and black and white.

The following free websites also include high-quality art and architecture images.

AICT is an image exchange resource for the educational community. It is arranged by geography and period, covering ancient through twentieth century art.

The NYPL Digital Gallery provides free and open access to over 700,000 images digitized from the the New York Public Library's vast collections, including illuminated manuscripts, historical maps, vintage posters, rare prints, photographs and more.

Google Art Project allows you to browse art collections worldwide and download high resolution images. Some images in a collection may not be available due to copyright restrictions.

Includes virtual historical tours, including ancient Rome, world cathedrals, castles and palaces, and art museums. Requires software download.

SPIRO is the visual online public access catalog to the 35mm slide collection of the Architecture Visual Resources Library (AVRL) at the University of California at Berkeley. The collection numbers over 250,000 slides and 20,000 photographs covering many aspects of art and art history.

Interactive detail of the Vatican's gem. May take some time to load. Worth the wait - way cool.

The Web Gallery of Art is a virtual museum and searchable database of European painting and sculpture from 11th to mid-19th centuries.

WorldImages provides access to the California State University IMAGE Project. It contains almost 75,000 images, is global in coverage and includes all areas of visual imagery.

Secondary Sources for Art History, Creative Arts & Museum Studies


Dickinson's Library Catalog

Use the Dickinson College Library Catalog to search for books that the Dickinson College library owns. Once you find a book you want, you will need to print or write down the call number for the item in order to locate it on the shelves.

In our library, books that are available for checkout are located on two floors of the library. You will find all books with call numbers beginning with A through F on the east wing of the main level of the library. All books with call numbers beginning with G through Z are located on the third floor. All reference books (non-circulating dictionaries, encyclopedias, etc.) are located on the main level of the library behind the computer workstation area.

The Waidner-Spahr Library's map will help you find your way around.

Library of Congress Classification System

At the Waidner-Spahr library, we organize and shelve our materials using the Library of Congress (LC) Classification System. The call numbers of books shelved according to this system always start with one or two letters, and are completed with a mix of decimal and ordinal numbers and more letters. For example, call numbers beginning with N always denote materials that deal with fine arts. More specifically, call numbers beginning with ND always denote materials on painting, and further, items with call numbers between ND49 and ND813 are used for materials that deal with the history of painting.

An example of a typical call number is this:

ND130 .E8 S83 1963a Roman and Etruscan Painting


WorldCat is a database that allows you to search library catalogs around the world. It opens up to you a much broader range of material on any topic. Books found in WorldCat that are not owned by Dickinson College can be ordered through our interlibrary loan (EZBorrow) system.

Getty Research Portal

The Getty Research Portal is an online search platform providing global access to digitized art history texts in the public domain. The Portal is comprised of catalog records that link to full, digitized texts held at contributing institutions.

Journals and Journal Articles

Journals are publications that are printed on a regular basis - usually monthly, weekly, or semi-annually. Journals are also known as periodicals or, more simply, magazines. Dickinson College owns approximately 10,000 journal titles, approximately 8,000 of which are electronic and the remaining 2,000 in print.

An index or database is the tool to use when you are looking for articles that have been published in scholarly journals. Indexes are books, which are usually arranged alphabetically by subject; online databases, can be searched in a variety of ways (by keyword or author, for example). The Databases section on this page will suggest the most appropriate sources to use for your specific article search. The Dickinson College Library does not own every journal covered in every index. You may have to use ILLIAD (interlibrary loan) to obtain an article.

Scholarly vs. Popular

Your professors at Dickinson will usually require you to use scholarly journals for your research. A scholarly journal has a narrow subject focus. The articles are written by experts in the field who are conducting original research, or writing reviews or essays; and the articles are often reviewed by the author's peers. Articles in scholarly journals may include bibliographies (citations to books and articles) and abstracts (short summaries of the article). Scholarly journals usually have a serious "look," including few if any ads or pictures. They may, however, include graphs, charts, or diagrams. Scholarly journals are usually available only by subscription.

Scholarly journals may have the additional requirement of being peer-reviewed, which means that a panel of experts will review all articles submitted for publication.

A popular magazine is meant for entertainment or informational purposes. Authors are usually professional writers, but not experts in any particular scholarly field. Magazines will include lots of photographs and advertisements. The subject material will be wider in scope than that of most scholarly journals. Popular magazines usually do not contain bibliographies or abstracts. These are the types of periodicals you can find in a grocery store or at a newsstand.

See also our Evaluating Resources Guide.

Journal Locator

The Journal Locator is a searchable, alphabetic list of all the journals that Dickinson College owns in any format. The Journal Locator will tell you what issues of each journal we own.

To search for journals dealing with chemistry, first access the Journal Locator. Change the selection box under "Browse Journals by Subject" from "--Please select a subject category--" to "Fine Arts and Music." Then click on "Art." Most of the databases will allow you to perform a search within each individual journal once you choose one.

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Most of the printed journals owned by Dickinson College are located on the lower level of the Library, east wing (the side closest to the HUB). Journals are arranged in alphabetical order by title. Digital journals are available by clicking the links in the Journal Locator that indicate the date range you are seeking. When you locate a journal title, be sure to read the details to make sure we own the specific issue or years you need.

Databases (Finding Journal Articles)

A database organizes information about the locations of articles, book chapters, and book reviews. Databases provide the complete citation of each article, including the title of the article, author, titleof the journal, volume and issue numbers, the pages of the journal in which the article can be found, and a short summary, of the article. Some databases do NOT provide the instant full-text access to the articles, so be sure to click the GET IT!
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button to see if Dickinson has the article you want elsewhere in the library.

If Dickinson does not own a copy of the journal you are seeking, you can order the article you need through interlibrary loan (ILLIAD).

Some of the best databases for research in the creative arts and art history include:

ARTbibliographies Modern (ABM) provides full abstracts of journal articles, books, essays, exhibition catalogs, PhD dissertations, and exhibition reviews on all forms of modern and contemporary art. Entries date back to the late 1960s.

Covers leading publications in the world of the arts. Includes major English-language periodicals, yearbooks, and museum bulletins, as well as European periodicals in a number of different languages. Also includes records of reproductions of works of art that appear anywhere in any of the indexed publications.

Index to citations in art, art history, and art criticism. Primarily English but includes articles published in French, Italian, German, Spanish, and Dutch. Includes indexing of art reproductions.

An index of articles, art-related books, conference proceedings, dissertations, and art exhibition and dealer's catalogs. Covers European and American art from late antiquity to the present.

Covers journal articles in the humanities, archaeology, art, classics, film, folklore, history, journalism and communications, linguistics, literature, music, performing arts, and religion.

A bibliographic database that cites articles from English-language periodicals. Coverage includes a wide range of interdisciplinary fields covered in a broad array of humanities and social sciences journals.

Websites of Interest


This site features stories culled from more than 200 English-language newspapers, magazines and publications featuring writing about arts and culture.

Artcyclopedia Though it may not seem scholarly, this source culls together information and images of artist's work online and notes image use policies of some of the links included for each artist. An excellent tool to discover information about artists from different websites including from museums, galleries, image databases, and from the art market.

CAA Reviews

Reviews of Exhibitions and Books from the College Art Association.


Search materials published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art from 1964 to the present. Current titles that are in-print may be previewed and searched online, while most texts that are out of print can be fully read online, searched, or downloaded as a PDF.

Metropolitan Museum of Art Publications Digital Collection

Selected items from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Thomas J. Watson Library. Materials selected for digitization expand access to the Library’s rare and unique materials by developing, supporting, and promoting a distinctive digital collection of these items and fall outside the parameters of other digitization efforts.