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Art & Art History: Books

A research guide to finding books, articles, and other resources in Art and Art History

Locating books on the shelves

Find books using the search box on the library homepage. When you see a physical book in your search results, write down the book's call number, and then go to the shelves.

To use call numbers, read them from the top down.

A label on the spine of a book, displaying the call number PR 8875 .P46 1999

For example, here's how you'd find this book:

  • First, follow the alphabet to the PR section of the library, which is part of the larger P section.
  • Next, within the PR section, look in numerical order for 8875.
  • Next, within the books numbered 8875, look in alphabetical and numerical order for .P46.
  • (1999 is the year the book was published.)

Finding special types of books

Here are some special types of books that you might want to find for Art History research:


Catalogues raisonnés

A catalogue raisonné is a catalogue of all works by a particular artist -- sometimes focusing on all works in a particular medium. To find them in the library, use the Advanced Search. Search for the artist's name in one field, and in the second field, search for "catalogues raisonnes" as a Subject. (You don't need to type the accent mark over the E.)

A screenshot of a Quest search, showing the name Rembrandt on the first line, and the term "catalogues raisonnes" as a Subject on the second line


Exhibition catalogues
To find exhibition catalogs, search the library and add the subject term "Exhibitions" to your search, like this:

A screenshot of a Quest advanced search, showing the word "impressionism" in the first field and the Subject term "exhibitions" in the second field

On the search results page, limit your results to books (under "Material Type").

In the example above, we're searching for exhibitions of Impressionist art. You can substitute other schools of art, or the names of particular artists, or the titles of particular exhibitions.


In the context of art history, a monograph is a book that focuses on one topic only (for example, one artist, or one art movement), instead of being a collection of essays on various topics.

Find monographs by searching the library for the topic and limiting your results to books. It helps to use the official subject term that corresponds to the topic.


Museum catalogues
Use these search terms to find museum catalogs. "Catalogs" is a subject term, so select "Subject" from the drop-down menu on that line. Note the spelling: "Catalogs," not "Catalogues."

A screenshot of a Quest advanced search, showing the words "museum OR gallery" in the first field and the subject term "catalogs" in the second field

If you're searching for catalogues for a particular museum, put the name of that museum in the first box, like this:

A screenshot of a Quest advanced search, showing "j. paul getty museum" in the first field and the subject term "catalogs" in the second field

On the search results page, limit your results to books (under "Material Type").


MetPublications is a free website provided by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Use it to view books published by the Met, including a wide variety of exhibition catalogues.

Many of the books in MetPublications can be viewed online in full text. If the book you want is not available in full text, look for it in the UMW library collection. If UMW doesn't have it, request it from another library via interlibrary loan.

Library of Congress Classification

Books are shelved according to Library of Congress Classification. In this system, the library is divided into twenty-one broad subject areas, each of which is assigned one letter of the alphabet.

Here are some noteworthy classifications within Art and Art History:

  • N -- Visual arts
  • NA -- Architecture
  • NB -- Sculpture
  • NC -- Drawing. Design. Illustration
  • ND -- Painting
  • NE -- Print media
  • NK -- Decorative arts
  • NX -- Arts in general
  • TR -- Photography
  • TT -- Handicrafts. Arts and crafts

For details on how books are arranged within these subclasses, see these PDF guides:

InterLibrary Loan (ILL)

If you find an item that belongs to another library, you may request to borrow it through InterLibrary loan (ILL).

To find items owned by other libraries, visit WorldCat


To place an InterLibrary loan request, log in to your free Simpson Library ILL Account using your UMW NetID and password.

Cooperative Borrowing Program