American Monument Cultures


Swing Low, Harriet Tubman Memorial Dedication. Photograph by Malcolm Pinckney. 
Photo: Malcolm Pinckney. Swing Low, Harriet Tubman Memorial Dedication. 2008. New York City Parks Department Archive. 

Research Guide for American Monument Cultures

This guide has a selection of key resouces for doing research on historic monuments throughout New York CIty.

For other helpful guides check out:

If you need assistance identifying additional resources, search terms or strategies, please schedule a research consultation.

Materials for this class:

Elizabeth Hutchinson

Personal Librarian 
Meredith Wisner
105 LeFrak Center, Barnard Hall


Background Information | EncyclopediasNews Sources
Digital Collections |  Finding Books | Finding Articles | Writing and Citing

Background Information

Historical Information: Art & Antiquities, 212.360.3410
Historic Photographs: Olmsted Center, 718.760.6745
Contemporary Photographs:  Press Office, 212.360.1311
Maps, Plans and Renderings: Olmsted Maps Division, 718.760.6798

  • National Register of Historic Places: Research: Conducting research for national parks and monuments requires research in potentially three locations. This site explains what can be found in each, and links to the proper authority.


  • Oxford African American Studies CenterA broad collection of scholarly reference articles people and events that have shaped African American history. Includes digital versions of the Encyclopedia of African American History (both volumes, 1619-1895 and 1895-present), Black Women in America, and African American National Biography.
  • Oxford Art Online: Oxford Art Online is the access point for Grove Art Online and the Benezit Dictionary of Artists, and other Oxford Art Reference resources. It contains subject entries, biographies, bibliographic citations, images, and image links. Created by scholars in the field, Oxford Art Online is a reliable and citable source for general research.
  • Encyclopedia of New York City
  • Encyclopedia of Urban America: Cities and Suburbs
  • Gale Virtual Reference Library: Gale Virtual Reference Library is a database of encyclopedias and specialized reference sources for multidisciplinary research.
  • Wikipedia: While not a source appropriate for citing in your work, Wikipedia offers links and citations to other relevant sources online, can give an great overview on a given topic, and is often be more up-to-date than traditional encyclopedias.

News Sources

  • Proquest Historical Newspapers: Covers major American newspapers including the New York Times.
  • Historical Black Newspapers: (includes the New York Amsterdam News): Full text and full-image articles from African American newspapers: Atlanta Daily World, Los Angeles Sentinel, New York Amsterdam News, Pittsburgh Courier, and The Chicago Defender.
  • Brooklyn Newstand: Includes the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn Life and Brooklyn Life and Activities of Long Island Society.  
  • Newsday: Contains full text of the newspaper Newsday including its title variants.
  • WNYC Radio Archives: Search the collections of WNYC's archives (includes audio files)

You can also search for additional newspapers in database search, and browsing by resource type.

Digital Collections (historic maps, photographs, drawing, etc.)

New York City has a wide array of cultural institutions, as well as three public libraries, all with digital collections that may contain information on monuments you are researching.  Along with the Library of Congress, these cultural instutions maintain digital collections that include photographs, maps, and other materials. Digital collections usually represent only a portion of what is available at a given institution. Viewing collections that are not online generally requires an appointment, so be advised and plan ahead.

  • Library of Congress: Especially good for doing research on national monuments, the Library of Congress offers digital collections (including photograph, maps and multimedia), on monuments created locally and nationally.  
  • New York Public Library Digital Collections: Inclusive of libraries in Manhattan the Bronx and Staten Island, NYPL has a huge cache of historic photographs of the City of New York, (including Queens and Brooklyn). NYPL has a world class map collection, which includes street level maps across the five boroughs. The digital archives of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture are also a part of this collection.
  • Brooklyn Collection: (Brooklyn Public Library): Similar to NYPL’s digital collection, the Brooklyn Collection offers images and maps (and other materials) related to sites in Brooklyn and beyond. 
  • Digital Archives, Queens Library: Digitized maps and and photographs, which are also searchable through an interactive map feature.
  • Museum of the City of New YorkThis database contains over 185,000 images (including photographs, maps, archival materials and multimedia) related to the history of New York City.
  • New York Historical Society: The New York Historical Society is both a museum and a library and maintains collections for each.
  • New York City Municipal Archives Online Gallery: The Municipal Archive's gallery is trove of photographs take in the service of city buisness. There are a number of relevant collections to choose from.
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art Collections Database: The Met's extensive sculpture collection may contain other works and information on major artists.
  • NYCMapOffering full aerial views of New York City in the years 1924, 1951, 1996, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, NYCMap offers a bird's eye view of the city in the pre-Google Satelite era. Select Map Type to get a photographic view.

    Screenshot of NYCMaps

Another great cache of visual material in the arts:

  • ArtstorProvides more than one million digital images in the arts, architecture, humanities, and sciences with a suite of tools for  research

Finding Books:

Search: use CLIO, Columbia Libraries' online catalog to find books on your topic. Some tips for searching in CLIO:

  • Use keywords with boolean operators (AND, NOT, OR, etc.) to help target your searching. Example: Monuments AND "Civil War"
  • Put phrases in parenthesis so that they are searched together. Example: "New York City" or "Civil War"
  • An asterisk (*), can be used to search multiple forms of a word at once. Example: Wom*n searches for women, woman, and womyn.
  • Use parenthesis to group terms: Example: Monuments ("Civil War" OR Reconstruction)

In CLIO, use Library of Congress subject heading links to find more books related by topic. 

Screenshot pointing out Library of Congress Subject Headings

Browse: You can also browse the shelves by call number to find books on your topic. The following Library of Congress classifications may be useful:  NB (sculpture - see below), E 151 - 909 (United States history) and F 116-130 (United States local history -- New York), and HN  (social history and conditions. social problems. social reform).

NB1-1952           Sculpture
NB1-50                  General
NB60-1115         History (Including collective biography)
NB1120-1133        Study and teaching
NB1134-1134.4     Competitions
NB1135-1150        General works
NB1160-1195        Designs and technique
NB1199-1200       Restoration of sculptures
NB1203-1270       Special materials
NB1272-1291        Mobiles ,color, sculpture gardens, etc.
NB1293-1895       Special forms
NB1293-1310       Portrait sculpture
NB1312-1313        Equestrian statues
NB1330-1685   Sculptural monuments
NB1750-1793       Religious monuments and shrines
NB1800-1880     Sepulchral monuments
NB1910-1952       Special subjects

WorldCat: Searches libraries worldwide. If the book is at another library you can try requesting it through Borrow Direct (fastest) or Inter Library Loan. For more information about these services have a look at this FAQ.

Finding Articles

The following databases are particularly useful for this project. You might also look at the General Art History Guide and the Urban Studies Guide to New York Field Research

Article SearchArticle Search in CLIO allows you to search all databases at once. This is great for finding information 0n subjects that are not well covered in scholarship, or to do a "known item search" to find specific articles referenced in other research.

Targeted searching in the Arts: The following databases are good sources for finding materials western art history and architecture. The two main bibliographic indexes for western art are the Bibliography of the History of Art and the International Bibliography of Art.

  • Bibliography of the History of Art BHA indexes literature on western art in periodicals, books, exhibition catalogs, and dissertations; with abstracts through 2007.  Includes Répertoire de la literature de l'art (RILA) 1975–1989.
  • International Bibliography of ArtThe definitive resource for scholarly literature on western art, IBA is the successor to the Bibliography of the History of Art (BHA), and retains the editorial policies which made BHA one of the most trusted and frequently consulted sources in the field.
  • Art Bibliographies ModernABM provides full abstracts of journal articles, books, essays, exhibition catalogs, PhD dissertations, and exhibition reviews on all forms of modern and contemporary art. 
  • Art & Architecture Source: Art & Architecture Source contains Art Full Text, Art & Architecture Complete, Art Retrospective, and including many unique sources. It features full-text articles, indexing and abstracts for an array of journals, books and more.
  • Avery Index to Architectural Periodicals: Created by Avery Library at Columbia University, this database offers a comprehensive listing of journal articles on architecture and design, including subjects such as the history and practice of architecture, landscape architecture, architectural sculpture, city planning, historic preservation, and interior design and decoration. Full text articles are linked to through e-link. The database also includes indexing of foreign and hard to find journals. Avery Index is also available through EBSCO.
  • Index to 19th Century American Art PeriodicalsIndexes 42 art journals published in the US during the 19th century, providing nearly complete coverage of journals from this period. The Index describes the entire journal contents articles, art notes, illustrations, stories, poems, and advertisements.

You can also search multiple databases at once through two of the largest content providers, Proquest and EBSCO. Many of the databases listed below are provided by one or the other:

  • Proquest (all 93 databases) - Selected databases listed below
    • Alt-Press WatchFull text database of selected newspapers, magazines, journals of the alternative and independent press. Includes titles such as Anarcho-Syndicalist Review, Chicago Reader, Dissent, Off Our Backs, Poverty and Race.
    • American Periodicals: This database contains periodicals published between 1740 and 1940, including special interest and general magazines, literary and professional journals, children's and women's magazines and many other historically-significant periodicals.
    • Ethnic newsWatchFull text articles from newspapers and periodicals published by the ethnic, minority and native press in the U.S. Coverage is from 1960 to date.
    • Gender Watch: Primarily a full text database, with some abstracts. Publications include scholarly journals (among them Critical Matrix, Hypatia, Columbia Journal of Gender & Law), magazines (the Advocate, Hurricane Alice, Lillith), newspapers (off our backs), newsletters, regional publications, books, booklets and pamphlets, conference proceedings, and government, n-g-o and special reports. Coverage extends from 1970 (off our backs) to the present, with most material published since 1990.

      Screenshot showing Database search in Proquest
  • EBSCO (all 100+ databases)  - Selected databases listed below
    • Academic Search Complete: Academic Search Complete is a comprehensive scholarly, multi-disciplinary, full-text database, with more than 6,100 full-text periodicals, including more than 5,100 peer-reviewed journals.
    • Alternative Press IndexIndexes journals covering cultural, economic, political & social change.
    • American History and Life with Full TextIndex of literature covering the history and culture of the United States and Canada, from prehistory to the present. The database indexes journals from 1964 to present and includes citations and links to book and media reviews.
    • Gender Studies DatabaseGender Studies Database, produced by NISC, combines NISC's popular Women's Studies International and Men's Studies databases with the coverage of sexual diversity issues. GSD covers the full spectrum of gender-engaged scholarship inside and outside academia.
    • Humanities Full TextHumanities full text brings full text (starting 1995) plus abstracts and bibliographic indexes (starting 1984) of noted scholarly sources in the humanities, as well as lesser known specialized magazines. The database indexes, abstracts and delivers the full text of feature articles, interviews, obituaries, bibliographies, original works of fiction, drama, and poetry, book reviews, and reviews of ballets, dance programs, motion pictures, musicals, operas, plays, radio and television programs.
    • Urban Studies Abstracts: features bibliographic records covering essential areas related to urban studies, including urban affairs, community development, urban history, and other areas of key relevance to the discipline. Records are selected from many of the top titles within the discipline, including Journal of Urban Affairs and Urban Studies.

Screenshot showing EBSCO database search


    Other databases to try: 

    • Google Scholar: You can use Google Scholar to search the open web for scholarship. One of its strengths is "Cited By" feature, which allows you to search for articles that cited a particular work you are interested in.

      Screenshot of Google Scholar Search
    • JSTORoffers full text access to older issues of key scholarly journals in the humanities and social sciences (research from the last few years is not included). You can search journals in a specific field using the narrow by discipline and/or journal feature.
    • Project MUSEa leading provider of digital humanities and social sciences content from leading university presses and scholarly societies.
    • Web of Science: consists of several multidisciplinary databases, including the Social Sciences Citation Index, the Arts & Humanities Index, and the Science Citation Index. You can search them all at once or individually - click on "more settings" to select the databases you want to search. They link publications based on citations allowing you to search the "web" of communication surrounding a topic.

    Writing and Citing

    The following are some books and online resources to help you compose your thoughts when writing about art history:

    Here are a few resources for creating citations in your writing, and using citation management software:

    • CiteSource (Trinity College) and Purdue OWL (Purdue University Online Writing Lab) offer free online resources for creating footnotes, endnotes, and bibliographies in a variety of citation styles (including Chicago and MLA).

    • Zotero is a software platform that allows you to save resources you find in library catalogues, databases, as well as pages from the web. It can even pull the full text pdf associated with a catalog record when available. With Zotero you can organize your research and export resources into a word document formatted to whatever citation style you require.
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