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Arts of the Western World: ART 0808

Guide for researching objects in a museum. Uses an object at the Philadelphia Museum of Art as example.

Example Object at PMA

Researching and writing about art objects requires contextualizing your object within the history of art, and the artist's body of work; connecting the dots between the stylistic and artistic influences of your object; and researching beyond your specific object.

Mont Sainte-Victoire 

Made in France, 1902-4

Paul Cézanne, French, 1839 - 1906Oil on canvas
28 3/4 x 36 3/16 inches (73 x 91.9 cm)


The George W. Elkins Collection, 1936

Outline for Researching Art Objects


Step 1: At the Museum

  •  Your object is your primary source and viewing it in person gives you an intimate understanding of its qualities.
  •  The information you gather at the museum will make the rest of your research easier. 

Step 2: Background Information

  • Encyclopedias
  • Museum Website

Step 3: Find Articles and Books

  • Journal databases provide articles related to your object.
  • Search the databases by keywords, artist, movement, period, style, and other keywords.
  • Search the "Books" tab to find books on your topic. 

Step 4: Writing Help

  • Writing about art requires a solid thesis statement stating your argument.
  • You will want to include a visual analysis of the object.

Step 5: Cite Your Work

  • Cite all quotes and paraphrased references used in the body of the paper. 

Ask the Librarian?

Jill Luedke's picture
Jill Luedke
Charles Library, Rm. 375
(215) 204-3166