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Design History

Call Numbers

Call numbers tell you where you can find a book on a library shelf. There are two call number systems in use at Northwestern University Libraries:

Both systems arrange items by subject so that library materials on similar subjects are shelved or grouped together.

This Northwestern guide explains why we use two systems at NUL and gives detailed instructions for finding books in both systems.

Dewey Decimal Call Numbers

  • 700 Arts
  • 710 Landscaping & Area Planning
  • 720 Architecture
  • 730 Sculpture, Ceramics & Metalwork
  • 740 Drawing & Decorative Arts
  • 750 Painting
  • 760 Graphic Arts
  • 770 Photography & Computer Art

Library of Congress Call Numbers

  • AM Museums; Collectors and collecting
  • N Visual arts NA Architecture
  • NB Sculpture
  • NC Drawing; Design; Illustration
  • ND Painting
  • NE Print media
  • NK Decorative arts
  • NX Arts in general
  • TR Photography
  • TT Handicrafts; Arts and crafts

Searching by Subject Heading

Library of Congress subject headings are a set of standardized terms used to describe book topics in virtually all research university libraries. They can be very helpful in locating books on a particular topic in NUsearch, WorldCat, or any other university catalog. 

Here are a few examples of very general and more specific design subject headings, which might be useful in crafting your own search terms:

You can look at any library catalog record or sometimes in the front matter of published books for other relevant subject headings.


Where to Look

You will find books for your topic via personal recommendations, in reference sources, by browsing in the library and its catalogs, and in the footnotes and bibliographies of articles and other books on your topic.

Northwestern University's Art Library collects materials on art, architecture, design, photography, and related visual arts. The collection is especially strong on 19th- and 20th-century Western art, and it contains many rare periodicals on the history of architecture.

Martin Reading Room

  • Some materials are housed in the Art Library's Martin Reading Room and its Architecture Reading Room on the third floor of Deering Library
  • Other books are housed in the Library's offsite high-density storage facility, Oak Grove
  • Rare and valuable history of design books and any manuscripts, archival materials, and other primary sources are housed in the McCormick Library of Special Collections
  • Books on design in Africa are housed in the Herskovits Library of African Studies
  • Many design books, especially those for practicing designers, are held at Mudd Library


All titles are cataloged in WorldCat and Northwestern's NUsearch library catalog search tool.


You can use NUsearch and WorldCat to find books you already know about (those cited in bibliographies and footnotes from reference sources and articles you've found on your topic), or you can browse them to find new, unknown books that may be useful for topic.

NUsearch catalogs materials found at or available through Northwestern University Libraries;
WorldCat catalogs materials found at libraries all over the world.

Finding a Book at the Library: AKA Using NUsearch

This video will show you how to find and request a book from the library.


I Just Want to Look Around! AKA Browsing NUsearch

This video will show you how to use NUsearch to browse for materials by topic or author. 


More NUsearch tips

Sign in to NUsearch using you netID and password to save the records you find for interesting books. Once you have collected a list of library books you would like to see, make a note of where they are located.

For those located in the Art Library, come to the third (top) floor of Deering Library (just above the Deering entrance) where you can browse the Art Library's open stacks to find the materials you need.

If your books are stored in the library's offsite Oak Grove storage facility, place a request for them through NUsearch (you must be logged in with your netID and usual password to do this) and the books will be delivered to the University Library's main circulation desk for you.

Finding Art Books at Other Libraries

If you find books in WorldCat or other sources that are unavailable or not held at Northwestern, you can borrow them from other libraries:

Other Local Chicago Libraries