Researching a Work of Art

Researching a Work of Art

1 – Collect basic information about the work of art.

It is unusual to find entire books or even entire articles devoted to one work of art, so be prepared to investigate all aspects of the work: artist, subject, culture, time period, style, movement, and so on.

Get all the information you can about the work of art. This includes title, artist, date, medium, the collection it is part of or where it was borrowed from and the museum’s accession number, if available. The accession number is especially critical if you do not know the artist of the work. Some museums make available a searchable database of their objects. Crystal Bridges will offer this resource in the future. If you first found the work of art in a book or web site, be sure to get all the information about that resource as well (the title and URL of a website; and title, author, publisher, and date of publication for a book) so you can cite the source.

2 – Research basic encyclopedias and credible online sites such as museums for background information about the artist, time period, style, or movement.

When working in the Museum Library, a reference librarian can assist you with dictionaries, encyclopedias, and other resources in print.

Crystal Bridges Museum Library does not circulate books or other items, and we currently do not offer interlibrary loan. However, many items located in the catalog can be found at local libraries that do circulate materials. These include Bentonville Public Library, Fayetteville Public Library, Rogers Public Library and Springdale Public Library, among other community libraries. Researchers and community members not affiliated with the University of Arkansas can apply for circulation privileges at UA Libraries.

Dictionaries and Encyclopedias

Print resources available at Crystal Bridges Library

Online resources

All Museum guests, students, and community members are welcome to use these databases at the Museum Library.

University of Arkansas students can access electronic resources using your current UARK user name and password. Non-university users can access selected electronic resources from UA Library public computers.

3 – Search an online catalog for books, exhibition catalogs, and other materials about the artist, time period, style, or movement.

Search the Museum Library catalog for the artist, style, period, or movement you are researching by selecting "subject" from the drop-down menu to the left of the search box (last-name-first for artist). Once you retrieve materials, be sure to refer to the bibliographies in the back of the books or exhibition catalogs because they can point you to additional resources. If searching a particular artist, check the catalog retrievals for a catalogue raisonné of the artist. A catalogue raisonné is a book that attempts to comprehensively document the works of one artist—which can be particularly helpful.

WorldCat OCLC FirstSearch
A licensed online subscription database accessible from Museum staff & Library computers. OCLC FirstSearch provides seamless electronic access to many databases covering a wide range of topics and formats. lets you search the collections of libraries in your community and thousands more around the world to look for the book or item you need.

4 – Search electronic databases for periodical and journal articles about the artist, time period, style, or movement.

Indices and Journal Databases

5 – Check the Museum Library vertical files

These are files containing articles, clippings, pamphlets, and other materials related to artists, museums, and gallery exhibitions, or other topics. Ask the Reference Librarian if there are any vertical files related to the artist or artwork you are researching.

6 – Search auction catalogs and museum sites for sales and exhibitions.