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Researching Photography

Offers help for students in history of photography classes at Princeton

General Searching Tips

The PUL library catalog is the place to begin your search to determine what books (and other items) we have at Princeton related to your research. The catalog is NOT generally the place to look for magazine, journal and newspaper articles, but you can do a Title starts with... search to determine if we subscribe to a particular journal in print or electronic form. For articles, you would use Articles+ or a subject-specific database.

Try to think of words that are specific to your topic. Think of multiple ways to describe what you want.

Use quotes for exact phrases: “Lorenzo the magnificent,”  “water lilies,” "history painting"

Combine keywords to narrow your search. The AND is automatic in the library catalog, but not usually in an article database (you must type AND, or use the Advanced Search): 

“art patronage”  Florence

history  “venetian painting”

(sculpture renaissance) not rome

Leonardo and Madonna

France nineteenth painting

You can also use truncation:  e.g. architect*  picks up words like “architects” and “architectural” (typically a * or ?)

Keep your search simple. After doing a keyword search (the default search in the catalog), try and limit the results using the “facets” on the left-hand side, like: Subject: Genre, and Subject: Era (and Language). When you find at least one item that seems relevant to your search for content, click on the title and look more closely at the item’s record: if it’s a physical book (vs. an online book or other item), look at the Subject(s) under DETAILS at the bottom. Are they useful for locating similar content, if so, click on one or more portions of the subject term.

Most searchers search by keyword, but subject searching can be very powerful and more precise. When you search by Subject (browse), you can search directly using these subject terms, which might describe a very broad concept, like “mannerism,” or a very narrow one, like exhibitions of Donatello’s “Judith and Holophernes”.

Subject terms used in the library catalog are terms used by many libraries in North America developed and created by the Library of Congress. They have evolved over time and adapt to reflect historical norms and changes and to reflect the language we use now and societal norms, but they are not perfect and change is slow. In general, be as specific as you can when coming up with subject terms.

You must put your search words in a particular order when using Subject (browse). A subject can be a person, like an artist, architect, photographer or designer: LAST NAME, FIRST NAME, a specific (well-known) monument, an art movement, a general concept or theme, an artistic medium, a historical event, a geographical region, etc. Headings are left-anchored, which means you need only type in the first few letters/words to see all headings beginning with what you specify.

Alternatively, you can try a Subject (keyword) search to search for any word appearing within a subject term without regard for the proper word order. For both Subject (browse), and Subject (keyword), if there are too many results, one can "edit search" at the top and add an additional keyword to the search.

General art-related topics

  • Search the Grove Dictionary of Art (online: Oxford Art Online).
    • Browse by FIELD, MEDIUM, ERA, REGION, PLACE TYPE, or OCCUPATION along the top, or search in the search box. Articles are broad in scope, and may have many sub-sections (outlined at the left). Most articles (and sub-sections) have bibliography listed.
    • Timelines for art history are also included.
  • Do a Subject (browse) search in the catalog. Knowing the structure and word order of the terms take practice, but can be very powerful – be as specific as possible.
    • Library of Congress Subject Headings (used in the catalog), involve a string of terms and are “left-anchored,” so you can browse a particular topic by doing a search, and then examining all its subheadings, e.g. Photography or Archaeology (numerous sub-headings, by time period, by region, by theme). Subject Headings can be a specific individual or a group of people, media (painting, sculpture), themes (Cubism), countries, specific artists (last name, first name), etc.
    • Subject (keyword) search allows you to search for keywords within a particular established subject term, which may also be a bit more precise than a regular keyword search.
  • Oxford Bibliographies is a tremendous resource for annotated bibliographies covering current scholarship that falls within a number of subject areas, Art History, being one of them. See the list of all topics covered under Art History towards the bottom, along with forthcoming topics. Oxford University Press's series  

  • Book series. Good overviews on various art historical movements, types of art, and specific artists can be found in the World of Art series. In the library catalog, select Advanced Search at the top, do a Series Title search with World of Art, OR just do a keyword search for the series title in quotes and one can limit the results using the facets on the left-hand side: by topic, etc. One can do the same thing with other general art historical series. Examples: 
    • Art & Ideas (Phaidon) 
    • A Closer Look (National Gallery, London) 
    • Critical Anthologies in Art & Culture (MIT Press) 
    • Dictionaries of Civilization 
    • Documents of Contemporary Art (Whitechapel Gallery/MIT Press) 
    • A Guide to Imagery (J. Paul Getty Museum) 
    • How to Read (Metropolitan Museum) 
    • Looking at ________: A Guide to Technical Terms (J. Paul Getty Museum) 
    • Oxford History of Art 
    • Pelican History of Art
    • Sources and Documents in the History of Art, (or just look for subtitle "sources and documents") 
    • Wiley-Blackwell Companions to Art History
    • Wiley's Art History Special Issue Book Series

Books, Articles, Other Content

For Books, to see if we subscribe to a particular Magazine, Journal or Newspaper title in print or online, for Video content, and for Online content we have access to in general, use the LIBRARY CATALOG. See the Journal & Newspaper Article tab in this guide listing the most important art historical databases.

In order to locate magazine, journal, newspaper and other content/citations related to a specific topic, you may use Articles+ as a start to locate full-text journal and newspaper articles, and other online content (see search box on this page). However, in many or most cases (or instead), you will want to use a subject database, of which we subscribe to hundreds. One can browse by subject, like Art & Archaeology (includes a mix of Princeton departments/disciplines and more medium-specific options), or can type in a keyword(s) in the database title and description in the search box. Examples might be: archaeology, periodicals, urban, women, fashion, etc. 

One should know about WorldCat, a "union" catalog that shows library holdings for hundreds of libraries mostly in North America but also abroad. There is the subscription and the free versions, which vary slightly. It is especially useful for knowing who might have a particular book, or other resource, and whether something exists in e-form. The Art Discovery Group Catalogue is also a tremendous resource for identifying book and article content in important art libraries, with some full-text links available.