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UMW Libraries
Simpson Library | Special Collections

ARTH 118: History of Asian Art: Home

How to do research for the Museum Paper

Here's an excerpt from the description of the Museum Paper, in the syllabus:

Museum Paper (20% worth of final grade):
The museum paper will require you to select one work of art from 1) an official museum website that has at least three detailed image shots available online or 2) from a google art project where you can zoom in and see the details....

Select any painting, print, hanging scroll, folding screen, sculpture, architecture, or ceramics that is relevant to the time period or themes we are covering in this class, according to your own preferences. This is an assignment about looking and writing, and requires you to rely on your own visual observations, followed by a brief research.


Below is my advice for how to do research for this paper. Click on each step for detailed advice:

Step 1: Find pictures of artworks

You need to find an artwork to study, and you need high-resolution pictures of that artwork. Here are three options for finding high-resolution pictures of artworks. I recommend trying all three of these options.


Option 1: Artstor


Option 2: Google Arts & Culture (formerly known as Google Art Project)

Google Arts & Culture is a site that provides free access to images of artworks and cultural artifacts. Its home page is here. Here are several ways to browse this site:


Option 3: Museum websites

Many art museums, but not all, provide high-resolution pictures of artworks in their collections. Here is a list (from Wikipedia) of museums that have large collections of Asian art. For each museum, go to that museum's official website to view items in its collection.

Step 2: Get started with a particular artwork

After you have selected an artwork that you'd like to write about, the next step is to find basic background information about the context of the artwork. For example, you might look for background information about the artist, or about an art movement that the work is part of, or about the time and place in which the artwork was created, or about the art medium.

Don't cite background information. Instead, read it and take notes, and use those notes to find sources you can cite. (The reason why you shouldn't cite background information is that it merely repeats information from other sources. It's better to go back to the original source, instead of trusting a summary.)

Wikipedia is a common source of background information, but Wikipedia is not a reliable source. As a better alternative to Wikipedia, I recommend consulting books in the Reference section on the first floor of Simpson Library. I particularly recommend these books:

Step 3: Find books and articles

After you've read background information, and written down a few clues to follow up on, the next step is to type those clues in search boxes to find citable sources.

Start with Quest. Quest searches the physical contents of the library and most of the electronic databases, all at the same time.



I recommend trying both narrow searches and broad searches in Quest. Narrow searches (such as the name of an artist or an artwork) will find narrow results such as articles. Broad searches (such as "Chinese art" or "Japanese art" or "Korean art") will find broad results such as books.

Quest finds results from all subject areas, not just art. If you only want to find sources that are related to art, use the Art databases.

If you just want to browse the shelves and see what books the library has, go to these areas in the library:

  • East Asian art: N 7336 - N 7379 (2nd floor)
  • East Asian history: DS 701 - DS 999 (3rd floor)

Step 4: Cite your sources

For the Museum Paper, your citations must follow the Chicago Manual of StyleUse the following tools to help you with Chicago style:

Reference Librarian

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Peter Catlin

The Art & Art History guide

The library provides guides to doing research in every subject that's taught at UMW. Here is the guide to doing research in Art & Art History.