AHIS 3960: Art History Senior Research Seminar

Barnard Art History Students, ca. 1950. Courtesy of the Barnard Archive

Art History Senior Seminar:
Guide for Conducting Research

Instructor: Rosalyn Deutsche
Personal Librarian: Meredith Wisner

Meredith Wisner
105 LeFrak Library

Make an appointment!


  General Reference | Books | Journals | Specialized Databases | Primary Sources
 Images and  Media | Writing about Art | IP and Citation Resources

General Reference

Allgemeines Künstlerlexikon Online (Artists of the World Online): This database is the world's most contemporary, reliable and extensive reference work on artists. It contains authoritative, up-to-date biographical information on more than 1 million artists.

Heilbrunn Timeline of the History of Art: The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Heilbrunn Timeline of the History of Art presents the Met’s collection through a chronological, geographical, and thematic exploration of global art history. Authored by the Met’s own curatorial staff and researchers, the Timeline comprises 930 essays, 300 timelines, and close to 7,000 objects from the Met's collections. The Timeline is regularly updated and enriched to provide new scholarship and insights on their collections. 

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.

CAA Reviews: Founded in 1998, this resource publishes timely scholarly and critical reviews of studies and projects in all areas and periods of art history, visual studies, and the fine arts, providing peer review for the disciplines served by the College Art Association.



General Reference:

CLIO is the library catalog for the Columbia Library System (including Barnard Library, but excluding Teachers College and the Law Library). In CLIO, like other databases, you can use boolean logic to improve your search results. When you find a book that really resonates with your topic, use the associated subject headings to find similar books on that topic.

  • Use Boolean logic (operators like AND, OR, NOT) to combine or eliminate terms in a keyword search
  • Use quotes to search multiple words as a phrase (example: "Harlem Renaissance," "Jacob Lawrence")
  • Use the Asterisk (*) to truncate your search terms, or for variants of a word stem (ex: feminis* searches feminist, feminists, feminism)
  • Locate books on related topics by clicking on subject headings

    Screenshot showing subject headings in CLIO

WorldCat: This catalog searches library collections for member libraries around the world. If you cannot find a book in the Columbia Library system, WorldCat is your next best bet! If you find a book on WorldCat that you would like to use, you may request it to Barnard via Interlibrary Loan.


Art Libraries:

Museums often house their own library collections, which are free to use (generally by appointment only). Generally speaking they are tailored to their perticular collections. Here are a few highlights in New York City:


Arcade: NYARC Arcade is the merged library catalogs of the Frick Art Reference Library, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Museum of Modern Art. Arcade allows you to search these three unique library collections at once. Aside from books on art, you will also find image collections, artist files that include exhibition histories, and archival material that can't be found elsewhere.


The Morgan Library and Museum: The Morgan requires an application to view their materials. You can search the Morgan's collection using their online catalog: CORSAIR.

Thomas J. Watson Library (Metropolitan Museum of Art): The Watson Library is the central research library of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Its collection of books and periodicals relating to the history of art is one of the most comprehensive in the world. The library is open to all visitors college age or older upon registration.




General Research:


Two of the largest multidisciplinary databases for scholarly research are Proquest and EBSCO. Each have their strengths, and each has unique content. It's worth trying both.

Google Scholar: Google Scholar is great for seeing if an article or book you are working with is cited by other articles. Simply drop the article's title into the search bar (use quotation marks to search as a phrase). Use "Cited By" to find works that have referenced your article or book, use "Related Articles" to find more works on the same topic.

Screenshot showing features of Google Scholar


Jstor: provides access to core journals in many scholarly fields, including History, Literature, Sociology, and Women's Studies, from the earliest issues to within a few years of current publication. Note that JSTOR usually does not contain the most recent issues of a journal, but it's possible that Columbia University Libraries have access via another subscription.


Web of Science (all disciplines): Web of Science All Databases indexes (formerly Thomson Reuters Web of Knowledge) indexes core journal articles, conference proceedings, data sets, and other resources in the sciences, social sciences, arts, and humanities.


Art and Design 

The two most comprehensive databases for scholarship in the history of western art are:

  • Bibliography of the History of Art: BHA indexes literature on western art including periodicals, books, exhibition catalogs, and dissertations; with abstracts catalogued through 2007.  Includes Répertoire de la litterature de l'art (RILA) 1975–1989. Discontinued in 2007, BHA has been succeeded by the International Bibliography of Art.
  • International Bibliography of Art: The definitive resource for scholarly literature on western art. It retains the editorial policies of BHA, which made BHA one of the most trusted and frequently consulted sources in the field.

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. The coverage includes performance art, installation works, video art, computer and electronic art, body art, graffiti, artist's books, theatre arts, conservation, crafts, ceramic and glass art, ethnic arts, graphic and museum design, fashion, and calligraphy, as well as traditional media including illustration, painting, printmaking, sculpture, and drawing.

Art & Architecture Source: Art Source contains Art Full Text, Art & Architecture Complete, Art Index Retrospective, and many other unique resources. It features full-text articles, and abstracts for an array of journals, books and more.

Arts & Humanities Citation Index: Multidisciplinary database covering the journal literature of the arts and humanities. Indexes world's leading arts and humanities journals with selected, relevant items from major science and social science journals.

Design and Applied Art Index: International index to over 130,000 annotated references from more than 500 design and craft journals and newspapers published from 1973 onward.


Index to 19th Century American Periodicals: Indexes 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, including articles, art notes, illustrations, stories, poems, and advertisements.


Getty Research Portal: This is a free online search platform that provides global access to digitized art history texts in the public domain. Through this multilingual, multicultural union catalog, scholars can search and download complete digital copies of publication for the study of art, architecture, material culture, and related fields.



Finding Specialized Journal Databases


The Columbia Libraries system offers thousands of specialized databases indexing articles and other materials not found in the sources above. You can browse these databases by discipline or resource type. This is a great way to research your topic in journal databases outside of art history!


To access the databases search:

  • From the CLIO landing page select "databases" from the menu options on the left
  • Select your desired discipline or resource type from the dropdown menu
  • You can select from one or both drop down menus to broaden or narrow your search

Screenshot showing database search

Primary Sources

Archive Finder: This database is a directory of archival material from repositories and collections in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Ireland. 

ArchiveGrid: Archive Grid includes over four million records describing archival materials from more than 1,000 cultural institutions. It brings together information about historical documents, personal papers, family histories and more. 

Artists' Papers Register: The Register includes papers relating to painters, sculptors, designers, design groups and studios, craftspeople and those engaged in design occupations, curators and historians - regardless of nationality or status.

MoMA Archives: The MoMA Archives was established in 1989 to collect, organize, preserve and make accessible the documentation concerning the museum's art-historical and cultural role in the 20th and 21st centuries. It is also an internationally recognized center for research for primary source material concerning many aspects of modern and contemporary art, including the papers of artists, collectives, galleries, dealers, art historians, critics, etc. 

Smithsonian Archives of American Art: With over 20 million items in its continually growing collections, the Smithsonian Archives is the world's largest and most widely used resource dedicated to collecting and preserving the papers and primary records of the visual arts in America.

Women Artists Archives National Directory: WAAND is a directory of archival collections by and about women in the visual arts working in the United States since 1945. In addition to individual women artists (both American and foreign born), WAAND also directs users to primary source material about organizations, collectives, publications, alternative spaces and artists' communities where these where these visual artists worked or continue to work today. 

WorldCat: Contains over 48 million records - including archival materials - covering all materials cataloged by OCLC member libraries around the world. It searches libraries worldwide.


Images & Media

Artstor: Artstor brings together hundreds of thousands of high-quality fine art images that have been provided by museums and libraries across the globe. Through Artstor's Images for Academic Publishing (IAP) initiative, you can obtain publication quality images free for scholarly use. Simply put "IAP" in the search box along with your other search terms to find public domain images that are cleared for scholarly use.

Europeana: Europeana.eu is a digital library containing 4 million items, including images, texts, audio and video from European museums, galleries, libraries, archives and audio-visual collections.

J. Paul Getty Museum: The Getty makes public domain images in its collection available through their Open Content Program. No permission is required. You can search only the Open Content images by selecting "Open Content Images" in the "Highlights" section in the left sidebar. Select the image's title and click "download." View their Open Content Program page for more information.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art offers high-quality images for scholarly use on its website that are designated "Open Access for Scholarly Content" (OASC). The OASC initiative gives license- and cost-free access to images in the Metropolitan Museum's collections that are believed by the museum to be in the public domain. These images are downloadable in high resolution from the museum's website, and are labeled OASC in their Collections database. The Metropolitan Museum's Open Access for Scholarly Content FAQ has more information about the program.

National Gallery of Art: The NGA has a large selection of public domain images offered through their Open Access program.  For more information see their Open Access policy page.

NYPL Digital Gallery: NYPL Digital Gallery has over 700,000 images available from the Library's vast collection, including illuminated manuscripts, historical maps, vintage posters, rare prints and photographs.


Writing About Art


Barnet, Sylvan. A Short Guide to Writing about ArtUpper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2010.

Booth, Wayne C., Gregory G. Colomb and Joseph M. Williams, The Craft of Research. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008.

Pop, Andrei, How to Do Things with Pictures: A Guide to Writing in Art HistoryCambridge: Harvard University, 2008. (free to download)

Intellectual Property and Citation Resources


Copyright and Intellectual Property

Intellectual Property Guide: This guide offers general information about copyright, fair use, and creating citations.

Intellectual Property Guide for Visual Resources: This guide explains intellectual property issues relating to visual images, specifically fine art images.

Citation Resources

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). http://courseguides.trincoll.edu/citesource/

Citation Management

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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