Skip to Main Content
The University of Massachusetts Amherst

History of Art and Architecture

Guide for research in Art History


This guide will help you conduct research in art history. It will cover library resources like books, databases, periodicals, and more.

Maybe I visited your class and pointed you to this guide, or maybe you're starting from here. In any case, I am happy to meet with you and talk about your research. I invite you to reach out and make an appointment.

Email me

Starting your research

Art books and magazines are on the 9th floor of the Du Bois library, as well as study carrels, chairs and tables. I welcome you to browse the stacks, using the LC Call numbers marked on the books and the shelves. The general categories are as follows:

  • N : Visual Arts
  • NA : Architecture
  • NB : Sculpture
  • NC : Drawing, Design, Illustrations
  • ND : Painting
  • NE : Print Media
  • NK : Decorative Arts
  • NX : Arts in General
  • TR : Photography

For example, if you are looking for Professor Tim Rohan's book, The Architecture of Paul Rudolph, you will find that its call number is NA737.R8 R64 2014. The call number is basically code for "architectural history, by Mr. Rohan, published in 2014."

A final note is that you will certainly find other call numbers useful! For example, the exhibition catalog Ming: 50 Years that Changed China has the call number DS753.2 .M523 2014 (which would be on the 15th floor, by the way!).

Subject headings are basically tags that are really helpful when searching in our catalog or databases. If you find something great in the catalog, take a look at the subject headings; you can click on these to find similar resources. Incorporating other terms can help you zero in on the best stuff for your research.

Examples of subjects that you may come across in art historical research, including some of my favorites:

  • Art--History.
  • Art and society
  • Art appreciation
  • Art Audiences
  • Brutalism (Architecture)
  • Christian art and symbolism
  • Bourgeois, Louise, 1911-2010. Spider.
  • Spider webs in art
  • Emotions (Psychology) in art
  • Installation art
  • Public art
  • Islamic art

Chicago is the standard style for citations in Art History. It's also very helpful for writing style! Are you anxious about whether to use "19th century" or "nineteenth century" in your papers? (See section 9.32: Centuries.) Is it the "Middle Ages" or just the "middle ages?" (see section 8.73: Traditional period names.) Chicago can help!

As a UMass student you get a free digital subscription to the New York Times. Click here for instructions.

Hall's Subjects and Symbols and Art

Databases for Art Historical Research

Following is a list of databases that contain scholarly content in Art History. I recommend starting with Oxford Art Online, which contains short articles that will help you get familiar with a topic. Those articles include bibliographies for further research.

The bibliographies on this list may not contain full-text articles. Use the citations you find to lead you to books or articles in our catalog, with a title search in Discovery or Google Scholar. Remember that I am here to help!

Finding Images

Your professors will appreciate your use of high-quality images, from reliable sources, rather than whatever you find on the web. Artstor is a source that serves images contributed by museums of their own holdings. Luna is our local collection of images, maintained by the Digital Scholarship Center. Many museums, including the Metropolitan Museum and the National Gallery of Art, offer high-quality image downloads for artworks that are in the public domain.

Managing citations: Zotero

I recommend Zotero for managing your bibliographic citations. When installed on your own computer, you can quickly and easily save books, articles, videos, or other websites to your account. When you are ready to generate your works cited list, Zotero will help you format your entries in Chicago, MLA, or another style. It works best on your own computer. First, make an account and download the program. The best part is the bookmarklet that grabs citations from the web just for you!