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Art History: Getting Started


Cara List's picture
Cara List
Art Collection
Deering Library, 3rd Floor
Northwestern University Library
1970 Campus Dr.
Evanston, IL 60208


This guide is intended as an introduction the art & art history resources available in the Northwestern University Library system.  Any broad subject area naturally limits attempts at comprehensive discussion, and as an intrinsic aspect of humankind's creative aspirations, art is no different; it would be impossible for this guide to list every journal, every monograph, every artistic movement throughout history. Rather, by focusing on the resources available and addressing their different strengths, the guide can act as an effective introduction to the use of the library as an aide to developing critical research skills that can then benefit independent scholarship.

Each section of the guide focuses on a particular type of library resource, as opposed to concentrating on a specific artistic medium or movement; the intent is to provide a general familiarity with different information sources that can then be applied as necessary, according to individual research demands. While some sources are more specialized by design and others more general, the research skills they help develop are universal.

Locating Titles in the Art Library




Titles in the Art Library use two classification schemas, the familiar Dewey Decimal System and the newer Library of Congress (LC) system.


  • Dewey numbers begin with a three digit classification number, followed by letters and numbers that identify the specific title. Generally, art books are in the Dewey 700-779 class and architecture in the 720s, though there can be exceptions.
  • Library of Congress call numbers begin with a letter and number combination, and are also followed by additional identifiers. Art titles generally begin with N


Titles in the art library come in three different sizes—regular, large, and folio—and those designations also play a role in locating a specific item. When reading an NUSearch catalog entry, then, it's important to note the call number, its type, and any size designation.

Finally, many items are stored offsite, ay the Oak Grove Library Center. Of the approximately 145,000 items in the art collection, around 65,000 are at Oak Grove, including most folio sizes, as well as older titles and titles in less demand. Titles at Oak Grove can be ordered online and are normally available within 24 hours.