Art Collection Frequently Asked Questions

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Why are some art books non-circulating?
Why can't I find art books and journals?
Why can't I eat or drink in the Art Collection?
How can I request books the Art Collection does not own?
The book I want is listed in NUcat as "received," but it has no call number. How do I find it?
Who can reserve a study carrel in the Art Research Center?
Where can I find or make slides of art works and buildings?
Why are the Art Collection's hours limited?
How can I learn more about art research?
How can I find information on a specific artist?
How can I find a specific image in the Art Collection?
How can I purchase a reproduction of a specific art work?
What sources do you recommend for acquiring art and architecture books?
Why can't the Art Collection subscribe to every new journal that researchers are interested in? How can I determine the value of an art work?
Where can I find videos on art and artists?
How can I do research at the Ryerson & Burnham Libraries at the Art Institute of Chicago?

Why are some art books non-circulating?

Certain types of items in the art collection have non-circulating status to preserve them and to keep them available for use in the reading rooms by any patron of the library. These include serials (journals and periodicals), multi-volume sets and catalogues raisonnés (catalogues of an artist’s entire body of work), reference books (marked ART REF), folio-sized books (these are 35 cm and larger and marked F before the call number), large photography books (call numbers L770-L779), and books that are very fragile or published before 1930.

Art books are often difficult and expensive to replace; original art journals are mostly irreplaceable. Art books go out of print quickly, usually within one year, and their value inflates as soon as they are out of print. Circulation significantly adds to the risk of damage and loss.

For more details, read the Art Collection Circulation Policy or pick up a brochure in the reading room.

Why can't I find art books and journals?

Good question. Those who work in Art are as frustrated as you are when you (and we) can't locate material on the shelf. There may be several explanations.

First, art books are classified and shelved according to size into one of three sequences: Regular, Large, and Folio. Sometimes books are mistakenly shelved in the wrong size sequence. See Locations and Call Numbers for more information.

Books on art may be held in several locations, including Art Reference, Main Reference, Main Core, Africana, Reserve, and Special Collections. Books may also be charged to study carrels. If you encounter an unfamiliar location on NUcat, please ask for help.

We also request your cooperation, patience, and assistance. Please return books used in the Reading Room to the front table instead of reshelving them or leaving them in the stacks, on tables, or on the floor. When you can't locate an item, ask for assistance at the Art Desk. We'll check for the book several times and notify you if it's found. If it's missing for a long time, we'll order a replacement copy.

Why can't I eat or drink in the Art Collection?

It's bad for books, which can be seriously damaged by spills and stains, and Art materials are often very difficult to replace. Crumbs in a library are a welcome mat for vermin of various disgusting species. Please eat only in the Plaza Cafe or the student lounge.

How can I request books the Art Collection doesn't own?

Please help us build the collection by alerting Art Collection staff about important research titles we lack. Order Suggestion forms are available at the Art Desk and online. On the form, let us know if you'd like to be notified when the item is ready for use. If you need the item immediately, please request it through Interlibrary Loan.

The book I want is listed in NUcat as "received," but it has no call number. How do I find it?

Complete the rush catalog request form, available on the Circulation homepage. You'll be notified when the book is ready, usually within a few days.

Who can reserve a study carrel in the Art Research Center?

Art study carrels are assigned to Northwestern University faculty and graduate students. Carrel space is limited, and we regret not being able to accommodate everyone.

Where can I digitize images?

Two flatbed scanners are available in the Martin Reading Room. You may also want to check the ARTstor digital image database to see if an image is available for download. Contact the Digital Collections Department for more image information on image digitization.

Why are the Art Collection's hours limited?

During the regular academic year, the Art Collection's reading rooms are open 80 hours per week, including evening hours until 10 pm five nights per week. Art relies heavily on student assistants to be open this many hours during the year, so our intersession and holiday hours are limited.

How can I learn more about art research?

A good place to start is the Art History LibGuide, which will introduce you to some key resources for art history.

Contact Art Collection staff to arrange a research consultation or instruction session.

How can I find information on a specific artist?

First, check NUcat, the Library's online catalogue. Enter the name of the artist as a subject heading, author, or keyword search. You may find it necessary to perform all three searches for any one artist. Second, consult printed art encyclopedias and biographical dictionaries located in Art Reference, or online art reference sources such as Oxford Art Online.

To find articles about an artist, search art databases such as Art Abstracts, Art Index Retrospective, BHA, and ARTbibliographies Modern. These and other online sources are linked on the Art History LibGuide. From the library's homepage, you can also navigate to these by clicking the Databases tab in the search box. Choose the subject "Art and Architecture" from the pulldown menu. To search multiple databases at once, use the CrossSearch feature in ER and select "Art and Architecture," then choose the databases to include in your search.

How can I find a specific image in the Art Collection?

A helpful place to start is the ARTstor database, containing over a million images that you can download or print for scholarly use.

If you know the name of the artist who created the work, follow the steps outlined above for locating a book or article on a specific artist. You might also check museum catalogues, if you know which museum owns the work. You can then check to see if the work you are interested in is illustrated or discussed in these sources.

For more online image sources, consult the resources listed on the Digital Images LibGuide.

How can I purchase a reproduction of a specific art work?

Art museums' shops often sell reproductions of works in their and other museums' collections. If you know which museum owns the original work of art in which you're interested, contact that museum to purchase a reproduction.

What sources do you recommend for acquiring art and architecture books?

Beyond Evanston and Chicagoland bookstores, and museum shops, there are many good online bookstores. Among others, try D.A.P.'s Artbook.com, Abbeville Press, AIA Bookstore, Ars Libri, Art Books.

Why can't the Art Collection subscribe to every new journal that researchers are interested in?

Unlike books, a new journal title represents an ongoing commitment. Northwestern University Library's journals budget does not grow annually to permit routine subscriptions to new titles. Given our commitment to building exemplary research collections, we are always hesitant to cancel existing subscriptions to free up funds for new ones. This philosophy holds even when interest in or curricular demand for a particular journal may be low. If we responded to vacillations in interest and curriculum by canceling journal subscriptions accordingly, we would soon have a haphazard and incomplete collection of journals. As funds are available, Art will judiciously subscribe to new titles as well as fill in gaps in existing runs. We give particular consideration to user requests. Please discuss your needs with the Head of the Art Collection.

How can I determine the value of an art work?

The Art Collection does not appraise or identify works of art. For this service, you should contract with a certified art appraiser, located in the Yellow Pages of the telephone directory under "Appraisers." A number of certified appraisers are also listed on the website for the Greater Illinois Chapter of the International Society of Appraisers. We have a limited number of sources to investigate prices of major art works sold at auction and recommend that you begin with Mayer (formerly International Auction Records), which is housed in Special Collections (708 I595), and Sotheby's Art at Auction (L708.2 A784), housed in the Art Collection. Each annual volume indexes art works sold at auction during the previous calendar year. You may also wish to consult SCIPIO Art and Rare Book Sales Catalog.

Where can I find videos on art and artists?

Art and architecture videos and films are catalogued in NUcat and available for borrowing or viewing in the Main Library's Mitchell Multimedia Center. Please refer to the Center's printed Guide to the Art & Architecture Video Collection.

How can I do research at the Ryerson & Burnham Libraries at the Art Institute of Chicago?

Chicago-area students, staff and faculty are eligible to use the Ryerson and Burnham Libraries, a closed stack, non-circulating research collection located within the Art Institute of Chicago. You will find more information on the Libraries' website.