Skip to Main Content

Creative Spirit: THTR 0807

Find resources and help with research for Theater 0807, Creative Spirit

Outline for Researching Art Objects

Philadelphia Museum of Art

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 Books

  • Search Library Search  to find books and more on your topic.
  • Library Search: Books is a database of the libraries' physical holdings (books, movies, periodicals, etc.). 

Step 4: Find Articles

  • Journal databases provide articles related to your object.
  • Search the databases by keywords, artist, movement, period, style, and other keywords.

Step 5: Writing Help

  •  Cite all quotes and paraphrased references used in the body of the paper.
  •   Include an annotated Bibliography

--from Jill Luedke "Arts of the Western World"

Step 1: At the Museum

Philadelphia Art Museum entrance

photograph:  Hugh Sung

Follow the five (5) steps below to make your visit to the museum more productive and your research easier!

1. Photograph your object. From ALL angles

  • This will make writing about the object much easier.
  • This will make locating the object in other resources easier.
  • You CANNOT rely on your memory.
  • NOTE: Please respect each museum's photography policy. Policies differ from museum to museum.

2. Write down (photograph) the wall text, including the accession number.

  • The accession number is very important in researching an art object.
  • Any text displayed on the wall will provide your search terms when you look for books and articles on your object.
  • You CANNOT rely on your memory.

3. Write down (photograph) other relevant wall text in the gallery.

  • This will contextualize your work.
  • This text will provide you with more search terms when you look for books and articles on your object.

4. Take notes of what you see and feel

  • Open your imagination; use your journal; write impulsively and freely about your feelings, your personal interaction – what do you see? What do you feel in the presence of this work of art?
  • Note the context in which the work is being presented: How it is physically displayed?  How do they light it?  What are the surroundings like?  What other works of art surround it?  Why do you think it is displayed this way?  Does the presentation of the piece contribute or detract from your ability to experience it?
  • Think about how the artist uses the basic elements of size, shape, color, texture, and composition
  • You CANNOT rely on your memory.

5. Visit the Museum Library

  • Museum libraries collect materials specifically related to their objects
  • Museum librarians know the objects and the research materials about the objects better than you do. 
  • Most museum libraries are open to college researchers.
    • Please view the library's policies on guest researchers.
  • The Philadelphia Museum of Art library accepts college researchers and wants to help you with your projects.
    • Email the PMA library < > about your object and schedule an appointment to visit the library.

from Jill Luedke "Arts of the Western World"

Step 2: Background Information

logo for Oxford Art Online

Oxford Art Online (Grove Art) - Comprehensive scholarly online art encyclopedia. Search by artist, movement, concept, style, medium, or country.  Oxford Art Online will contextualize your object and provide you with more clues and search terms.

Museum's Website. If the object lives at a museum, search for it on the museum's Website. 

Metropolitan Museum of Art (Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History)Includes images with descriptive information, essays, maps.

Credo Reference - online full-text of hundreds of encyclopedias, handbooks, dictionaries, and useful tools for gaining background information on an artist, movement, or geographic area.  

from Jill Luedke "Arts of the Western World"

Step 3: Find Books


Reminders for Searching

  • Search for artist, movement, period, or other keywords. 
  • You don't know for sure if the books is relevant until you actually look inside it.

 Ideas for Search Terms

  • Cezanne = Artist/Creater
  • ImpressionismEarly 20th century, Landscape = Movement/Style/Period
  • France = Location/Region
  • Painting = Technique
  • French = Culture/Religion/Reign

Google Books - can help you look inside the book to see if your topic is discussed in enough depth for you to look up the book in the library and go get it.

from Jill Luedke "Arts of the Western World"

Step 4: Find Articles

Library Search is your gateway to discover books, journal articles, and much more at Temple University Libraries. Additional information can be found in our Library Search FAQ's.

Databases for finding information on art include: