Doing Research in Art History

Learn about the core resources in Art History research, and how to find and use them at Williams.

What are Primary Sources?

Primary sources are first-hand accounts by participants of a particular event or materials produced at the same historical time period. 

If you were examining racism in the 1911 edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the article in the encyclopedia on the "Negro" would be a primary source. However, an article in the American Historical Review analyzing racism in the Britannica would be a secondary source. (Richard Marius, A Short Guide to Writing About History, pp. 14-15.)

Some examples of primary sources include:

  • Memoirs, speeches, writings, correspondence
  • Papers of a political party, agency, or association
  • Official documents such as congressional hearings and reports
  • Contemporary magazine and newspaper articles
  • Contemporary art, films, literature, and music
  • Contemporary artifacts, such as buildings and monuments

Finding Contemporary Books or Articles

Books or articles written about historical artists during their lifetime can be considered primary sources. 

You can find primary source books and articles in:

Finding Contemporary News Articles

News articles written about historical artists during their lifetime can be considered primary sources. 

You can find primary source news articles in:

Finding Artists' Writings

Search the library catalog:

  • Search for the artist's name as Author.

Search the Clark Library Catalog:

  • Do a Name search for the artist.
  • Sort the results by author for easier browsing.

Finding Artists' Letters

Search the library catalog:

  • Search for the artist's name as Author.
  • Add words like "correspondence" or "letters"

Also Try: