We are frequently presented with images as passive illustrations or as novelties breaking up blocks of text, but in the study of history and the built environment (and many other topics as well!), it is important to regard images as objects for active investigation. Images provide unique information that simply cannot be communicated through other means.
When searching for images, it is important to consider your search terms and objectives in a similar manner as you would when searching for textual material. Once you have a sense of what you are looking for, you will have a better sense of where to look for images.
There are three general categories of places where you will find images.
1. Where images are produced - image creators such as architects, artists, photographers, other creators
2. Where images are reproduced - publications and publishers such as journals, newspapers, books
3. Where images are collected - repositories such as archives, libraries, websites, museums, and other repositories
Many of these locations will overlap, and you will find that some of these locations will be more useful for you than others, depending on the focus of your research.
In the study of the built environment, it is important to shift your thinking about images from regarding images as illustrations to considering them as objects for investigation. Interrogate the images you look for and find, and carefully consider what each image communicates and the information that the image provides -- as well as what the image omits.
It is important to search thoughtfully for images, and to evaluate images critically, much in the same way you would search for and critically evaluate textual resources. Images should be evaluated like any other source, such as journal articles or books, to determine their quality, reliability, and appropriateness.
Images: Evaluating Images
Visual analysis is an important step in evaluating an image and understanding its meaning. It is also important to consider textual information provided with the image, the image source and original context of the image, and the technical quality of the image.
The following questions can help guide your analysis and evaluation.
[questions based on http://guides.libraries.wm.edu/c.php?g=506290&p=3467470]