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ART 101: Art History I : Getting Started

Planning Your Search

For this assignment, you need to choose a work of art whose origins are debated and then discuss how the debate has evolved. To begin with, you need to choose a work about which enough has been written, and that means making a quick scan: are there books that include coverage of the work? Have articles been written about it? Once you have a sense that a work has been debated enough to delve further into it, you will need to dig deeper

First Steps

First, search an encyclopedia for background. 

Second, use a combination of searching and browsing to find coverage of your work of art in books. Catalogs don't always reveal that there are six pages that are exactly what you want; you need to think broadly about what kind of book might contain what you are looking for, then browse those books and the books shelved nearby. Art books are found in two sections on the upper level: the general collection and the oversized collection. 

Third, see if there are articles on your artwork. 

Browsing for Books

Books are shelved in general subject categories using the Library of Congress classification system. You may want to supplement your use of the catalog with browsing shelf areas for your topic. Below is a brief listing of some of the subject locations in the fields of Art & Art History.

  • CC Archaeology
  • N Visual Arts (General)
      • 5300-7418 History of Art
    • NA Architecture
    • NB Sculpture
    • NC Drawing. Design. Illustration
    • ND Painting
    • NE Print Media
    • NK Decorative Arts
    • NX Arts in General
  • TR Photography
  • TS Metalwork. Wood. Textiles
  • TT Handcrafts

-The main art section, N, is on the upper level.

-Many art books are larger than our shelves typically can hold, so are kept in the Oversized section. This set of shelves is located in the southwest corner of the upper level. 

-Browse the Reference Section on the Main Floor for a large collection of encyclopedias, dictionaries, handbooks and guide books on many subjects of art and art history.

Having Trouble?

Feel free to drop by the library's reference desk or drop me an email - fister @

Background Information

Wikipedia is often a great way to get the lowdown on a topic, and it may lead you to further references that are useful. But you should also look in the following art encyclopedias shelved on the main floor in the Reference section. 

Catalog Search Box

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Look Inside

Both Amazon and Google Books index the contents of some books. If you identify a book you want to borrow, use the "find in a library" link found in Google Books.

Find Articles

Though many of these databases include the actual articles, you may neec to use the yellow "find it" button to see if the article is available in another database, in print, or only through another library. 

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