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How to find Primary Sources in Art

Finding Primary Sources in the Catalog

1. Books from the time period you're writing about
Search the library catalog by SUBJECT KEYWORDS and limit by date of publication.

For example, architecture and date limit <1600

2. Treatises, letters, interviews, autobiographies, diaries

--If you know the name of the person, search the library catalog for that name under AUTHOR (last name, first name).

For example, Leonardo, da Vinci ***Note that through the medieval period, people are usually cataloged by their first name. When in doubt, do a KEYWORD search, putting the name in quotes, "leonardo da vinci" or "el greco" then in a relevant item, find the official subject headings and redo your search using this heading.
OR for more recent artists, Gogh, Vincent van

--If you do not have the name of a person, search the library catalog by KEYWORDS or SUBJECT KEYWORDS:

For example, women artists interviews OR art dealers correspondance

*** Common subject terms that indicate primary sources:

  • diaries
  • autobiography
  • personal narratives
  • complete works
  • early works to 1800
  • sources
  • interviews
  • correspondance

3. Magazine or journal article from the time period you're writing about
--Use an article database or printed index to locate the citations (title, author, periodical title, date, volume, page numbers) of relevant articles.
--Use the FIND IT button to determine whether the periodical is available at the University of Chicago

4. A periodical as the centerpiece of your research:
Search the library catalog using the JOURNAL search, for example, Plume; littéraire, artistique, philosophique OR Camera Work
--To discover unknown periodicals, search for topics using the KEYWORD search: avant garde periodicals OR photography periodicals
Use bibliographies to identify additional sources. Example: KEYWORDS photography periodicals bibliographies

5. Newspaper article from the time period you're writing about, for a specific event or date
--Use a newspaper database or index to locate the citations (article title, author, newspaper, date, volume, page numbers).
--If no index exists for the newspaper, use a reference book, secondary source, or the New York Times to determine the probable dates for articles.

6. Newspaper titles by city or by subject
--Search the library catalog using SUBJECT KEYWORDS such as african americans chicago newspapers
Consult the the Center for Research Libraries' catalogs of foreign and domestic newspapers

7. Records of, or materials published by an organization
--Search the library catalog by the name of the organization as an AUTHOR or as a CORPORATE AUTHOR (in Worldcat):
Ashmolean Museum OR National Endowment for the Arts

8. Manuscript and archival collections
Search the library catalog by AUTHOR (last name, first name, or corporate author) and limit to format "archives and manuscripts"
--Search the library catalog by KEYWORDS and limit to format "archives and manuscripts"
--The Archives of American Art in Washington, D.C. holds collections of personal papers relating to American artists; records of galleries, museums, and art organizations; videos and interviews from the Archives’oral history project. The vast majority of these collections are available to the University of Chicago community on microfilm though interlibrary loan.

9. Digital Image collections
Start with ARTstor.

10. Finding images in print sources
--For well known artists, use SUBJECT KEYWORDS and search for that name with the phrase catalogues raisonnes, ie; picasso and catalogues raisonnes

--Exhibition catalogs are rich sources of images as well as extensive bibliographies. Search the library catalog using KEYWORDS: renoir and exhibition*
Note that the * searches both the singular and plural forms of the word "exhibition"

--Search the library catalog for your topic using the SUBJECT KEYWORDS pictorial works. For example, gardens japan pictorial works

Subject Guide

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Nancy Spiegel
Bibliographer for Art and Cinema
Bibliographer for History
Regenstein Library Room 463