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UMW Libraries
Simpson Library | Special Collections

ARTH 303: Methods of Art History with Julia DeLancey: Quest tips & tricks

Welcome to the new Quest

Quest, the library's main search tool, looks a little different this semester. In December 2020, the library upgraded Quest to a new interface. This new interface offers all of the same features as the old interface, plus a few more.

There's a difference between searching Quest like a beginner and searching it like an expert. On this page, you'll find the following tips and tricks that you can use to search like an expert:

Using the Advanced Search page

Most people who use Quest use its Simple Search feature. However, there's also an Advanced Search feature. It looks like this:

A screenshot of the Quest advanced search, showing multiple search boxes, all blank


Notice that the dropdown menus let you connect your search terms with "AND," "OR," and "NOT." Quest also understands if you type "AND," "OR," or "NOT" into a search box, which lets you construct searches such as this:

A screenshot of the Quest Advanced Search box, showing "feminis*" on the first line and "art* OR paint* OR sculpt*" on the second line

The asterisks find all possible suffixes of the root word. For example, feminis* finds "feminist" or "feminists" or "feminism" or "feminisms."

In plain English, the example above means Find items that contain words starting with "feminis" AND contain any of the following: words starting with "art" or words starting with "paint" or words starting with "sculpt."

Finding and using subject terms

Every item in Quest is tagged with subject terms that tell you what the item is about. They look like this:

A screenshot of a list of subject terms as they appear in a Quest item record

Clicking on one of these subject terms will start a new search. This new search will find all the things tagged with that term, and only those things.

Will a subject term find every item that we have on that subject? No. The reason why one term won't find every item is that different databases use different words to describe the same thing. One database might use "Painting, Italian," and another might use "Painting -- Italy."

But, that's a problem with the databases. Library books don't have that problem. The library books are all tagged using standardized subject terms, as decided by the Library of Congress, which means that once you find one book tagged with a subject term, you can trust that term to find every book we have on the subject.

Quest has an automatic tool for suggesting subject terms. It's on the left side of every search results page. It looks like this:

A screenshot of five subject limiters from a Quest search, with "Show More" at the bottom

By default, Quest only shows you its top five suggestions, but it'll give you many more suggestions than that! Click "Show More" to view dozens of suggestions.

Please note: Clicking on one of these subject terms won't start a new search. Instead, it'll limit your existing search to items tagged with that term. If you want to start a new search with one of the suggested subject terms, type it into the search box and set the dropdown menu to Subject.

Using the Browse feature

At the top of every page in Quest is a link to the Browse feature. It looks like this:

A screenshot of the buttons along the top of the Quest screen, with the Browse button circled


The Browse feature lets you view lists of books that the library owns -- but, not just lists of titles of books! No, you can also view lists of subjects of books, and that's what makes this feature so useful.

To view a list of subjects, first you need to find a subject term to type in the box. (See above for how to find a subject term.) Then, after you've found a good term, type it in the Browse by Subject box. You'll see something like this:

A screenshot of the Browse by Subject page, with "Picasso" in the search box and a long list of subjects relevant to Picasso below

What's going on here? These are all subject terms, but subject terms often have two parts.

  • The first part, "Picasso, Pablo, 1881-1973", is called a subject heading.
  • The second part (for example, "-- Catalogs"), is called a subject subdivision.

The Browse by Subject feature generates a list of all the subject headings and subject subdivisions in books that Simpson Library owns (including print books and e-books).

The purpose of browsing is open-ended discovery. Try it! You'll discover things you wouldn't even have thought to search for!

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 Quest, 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 in Quest 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 in Quest 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").