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UMW Libraries
Simpson Library | Special Collections

Art & Art History: Books

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

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Locating books on the shelves

When you find a physical book in Quest, write down its 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.)

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:

Finding special types of books

In the context of art and art history, a monograph is a book that focuses on the life and work of one artist only. Find monographs by searching in Quest for the artist's name as a Subject, and limiting your results to books.


Museum catalogs
Use the following search terms to find museum catalogs. "Catalogs" is a subject term, so select "Subject" from the drop-down menu on that line.

A screenshot of the Quest Advanced search screen. In the first box are the words "museum OR gallery". In the second box, which is connected by the word AND, is the word "catalogs". The drop-down menu for the second line is set to Subject.

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

A screenshot of the Quest Advanced Search page. The first line reads "Any contains j. paul getty museum." The second line, which is connected by AND, reads "Subject contains catalogs."

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


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

A screenshot of the Quest Advanced Search screen. The first line reads "Any contains impressionism." The second line, connected by AND, reads "Subjects contains exhibitions."

On the search results page, limit your results to books (under "Resource 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.

Interlibrary Loan (ILL)

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

To place an interlibrary loan request, you will need to create a free UMW Libraries ILL Account.

Search for an item in libraries near you: >>

Cooperative Borrowing Program