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UMW Libraries
Simpson Library | Special Collections

FSEM 100H7: Environmental Art: Home

Meet your librarian

What you're looking for

Here is an excerpt from Prof. Garmon's guidelines for the project. I've bolded a few important parts to draw attention to them.

The paper/presentation should include at least 3-4 examples of the artist’s work. The examples should be in a format that the class can easily view. 

You should talk about ideas and motivations that inform the artist’s work in general as well as the issues that informed the piece/examples that you show during the presentation. You might want to include excerpts from the artist’s statement or quotes from texts written about the artist.

Find out and discuss the artist’s process and the ways he or she approaches art making. You could even try and email the artist (provided that he or she is still alive) to ask thoughtful questions.

What is the historical and cultural context of the artist’s work and ideas?

Types of sources

Here are the different types of sources that you'll use in your research:

  Primary sources Secondary sources Tertiary sources
What they are



Starting points

  • Artworks
  • Artist statements or interviews
  • Artist memoirs
  • Emails from artists
  • Journal articles
  • News articles
  • Magazine articles
  • Books
  • Wikipedia
  • Library encyclopedias
  • Textbooks
  • Study guides
How they help you They provide evidence to support your statements. They tell you what other people think about your topic. They introduce you to new concepts and help you find citable sources -- but are not themselves citable.



Use Quest to search the library's physical collection and the contents of most of the library's electronic databases.

Quest Logo
Search articles, books, and more...



What should you type in the Quest search box? You can type the name of an artist in the box. That's a good place to start. However, don't stop there! Remember, you're supposed to research the "historical and cultural context of the artist’s work and ideas." Here are some other ideas:

  • Look for clues in tertiary sources such as Wikipedia, and type those clues in the Quest search box.
  • Try typing subject terms in the Quest search box. Each item in Quest is tagged with subject terms that describe what the item is about. Here are some subject terms that you might want to try searching for:
    • Earthworks (Art) 

    • Environment (Art)

    • Installations (Art)

    • Site-specific art

Other tools you can use

The Wikipedia logo

Tertiary sources

Tertiary sources are short overviews or summaries of a topic. Tertiary sources are most commonly found in encyclopedias, such as Wikipedia.

Tertiary sources are really useful. They're meant to be used when you're first starting your research. They help you find a topic and learn basic information about that topic. However, do not cite tertiary sources. The reason why you shouldn't cite them is that they are not original. They merely repeat and summarize what other people have said. It's better to get the information straight from the original source.

There are plenty of encyclopedias in the Reference section on the first floor of Simpson Library. For art encyclopedias, look under letter N. I particularly recommend the following encyclopedias:



You can use Quest to search all subjects, or use individual databases to search specific subjects (such as Art & Art History). Out of the 200+ databases that UMW subscribes to, these are the most useful databases for this class:

Cartoon art of a book

Books in the library

Use Quest to discover books in the library, and then use call numbers to find those books on the shelves. Here's an explanation of how our call numbers work.

Books about art are shelved under letter N on the second floor. The N section is divided into several specific subject areas, each of which covers a particular topic within art.

My presentation to your class

Here are the PowerPoint slides for my presentation to your class. Click in the lower right corner to expand the slides to full screen.



Reference Librarian

Peter Catlin's picture
Peter Catlin

Other guides

These guides provide advice and recommendations for FSEMs in general, and for Art & Art History research.

The Citing Resources guide gives you examples of perfectly-formatted citations. Zotero is a free app that keeps track of the sources you've found, and generates citations without any typing.