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Visual & Performing Arts


Research Help is still available during remote instruction!

Email or chat your subject librarian using the contact information on the right of this page. We can provide remote research assistance via Zoom (which allows for screensharing), chat, email, and phone.  

Welcome to the CSUSM Visual and Performing Arts Subject Guide. The resources identified in these pages may be only available to CSUSM users, but every attempt has been made to identify appropriate non-commercial free resources when possible.

Aren't finding what you need? Please contact the librarian for more help.

General Help--Locating Books

CSUSM Library Catalog

provides information on books at Cal State San Marcos that are available either in paper (on the shelf) or electronic format (click on the WWW link in the catalog record for 2-hour access.)

Other Options (not at CSUSM)

may be locally held or be brought from across the country. To find out that a book exists, you need to search one of these three catalog databases. Once the material is in, you pick it up at the Library's Checkout desk.

  • CSU+ is a service that allows students, faculty, and staff to borrow books and media from other California State University libraries. Materials usually arrive within 2 –5 business days.
  • Melvyl searches the entire University of California catalog system and delivers in 5-10 days through Interlibrary Loan.
  • WorldCat searches a 'universe' of library catalogs and delivers in 5-10 days through Interlibrary Loan.

Useful Keywords

Keywords can be subject to interpretation by a computer search function in ways you never imagined! Try to be specific in your search. Use 'modern dance' rather than 'dance' if you are looking for that specific form. 'African art' will bring back art in Africa as well as art by African-American artists.

Useful Subject Terms

Can't think of terms to accurately describe your topic?  Library catalogs use specific subject headings to group related books together. 'Art' is such a large topic, you will want to think of ways to narrow it down, by time period, geography, style, specific artist, culture, etc. Here are a few examples:

Art Appreciation

Art, African -- 20th Century

Art And Morals

Painters -- Mexico -- Biography

Picasso, Pablo, 1881-1973 (note the last name, first name when looking for a person as subject, this also is the format to use when looking for a work by author)

Art Criticism

Browse the Book Stacks

Sometimes, just looking through the shelves can turn up works you would not have considered otherwise. Using the Library of Congress subject system, Art is shelved in the N call number area. The Wikipedia online encyclopedia provides a list of the subclasses in the N area so you can see how this is organized.

Genre Headings

Genre refers to a type of book or other information (e.g., videos) rather than the topic (as with a subject heading search.) A very important type of information in the Art discipline is exhibition catalogs. CSUSM has a number of these, and to find them is by selecting GENRE as the search field, instead of the default KEYWORD, and then type in Exhibitions. There are other art-related genres such as Video Art (recordings made of interviews with artists or exhibits) and Electronic Journals--Arts (full text journals in our databases or on the internet.) The searchable categories for this type of search continues to grow, so explore!

Locating Materials

The library catalog tells you what we own in either physical or virtual form, but what if you need something that we don't own?

Books can be ordered through Circuit (look for the Circuit button in the library catalog.)
Articles can be located by clicking on the Check SFX for Availabilitybutton in the database you are using OR through Interlibrary Loan (ILL). ILL should be an option in Check SFX for Availabilityif there isn't a copy available in our research database collection.
Dissertations are very rarely needed, but if available for loan, can be requested through ILL.
Videos are normally not lent out through ILL, you need to go to the library that holds the item to view there or borrow yourself. You may find a video available for rent online, but they are normally very expensive.

Image Collections

Before download or use, check for any copyright or usage restrictions. Most images are provided with the intent of limited educational and scholarly use, but that does not mean they can be reproduced for widespread use or in products intended for sale.

If you are using the image for a class activity or assignment, consult the Visual Resources Association's Statement on the Fair Use of Images for Teaching, Research and Study to see what kinds of uses are advisable.  See especially Principle #4.

A great site for addressing copyright issues more generally is "Crash Course in Copyright" offered by the University of Texas. Resources for reading and links to previous conferences on copyright are available from the University of Oregon at Christine L. Sundt's Copyright & Art Issues.

General Image Collections

British Library Open Image Collection
More than one million images from the British Library's 17th-, 18th-, and 19th-century collections, available via Flickr Commons.

Chicano Art Digital Image Collection
Hosted at University of California, Santa Barbara, these images are restricted use, but offer a growing overview of Chicano art.

Cornell University Image Collections
A variety of collections including birds, political Americana, Indonesian art and more.

George Eastman House
The Collections Online link offers a large assortment of historical still images.

Gallery of the Open Frontier
University of Nebraska Press has assembled a large collection of photographs from the National Archives in relation to the Westward Expansion and American West.

Google Images
Probably the world's largest image collection, this scans a wide variety of sources in photographic, hand-drawn and computerized images.  Newly added as of November 2008 is a search of Life Magazine images.

Internet Archive: Moving Picture Archive
A wide variety of films and stills from movies and television. This material has relatively unrestricted use, but do check for any restrictions before downloading.

LUCI--Materials held in the University of California system by seven participating campuses. Materials range from ancient Greek and Roman classics to California and public art. Be sure to read the page on 'How to Use LUCI" to understand the collection and get the best results.

Mother of All Art: Image Collections and Online Art--from University of Michigan offers links by geographic and genre headings.

New York Public Library Digital Gallery
A wide-ranging collection of images (photographs, prints, and more) from the massive collections held by NYPL. Sorted into subject-related collections or fully searchable from the home screen, these range in date, subject, media and purpose. 

Visual Collections-- A collection of over 30 online collections assembled by David Rumsey and Cartography Associates. Most collections are freely available, but may require a one-time software download available from the site. Collections include cartography, fine arts, architecture, photography and other. 

WikiMedia Commons--An image and media collection assembled in the wiki format. Searchable by subject, type and collection. Verify usage permissions before download.

World Images
A collection being assembled by the CSU with over 65,000 images has a broader range of content, including political and cultural history. Tutorials are provided for maximizing your use of this collection. This is a growing project with subject-specific image collections planned. 


California & CA History

California Heritage Collection

Hosted by UC Berkeley's Bancroft Library, this site offers over 30,000 images of California history. Also searchable through the Online Archive of California collection.

From the University of California, Berkeley. Collection is browseable or searchable and does include images from other than California. Images are provided under differing copyright usage permission, so be sure to check before using.

Online Archive of California--Primarily historical images of California or material held by California museums, libraries and archives, this site offers access to photographs, paintings and prints and some texts. Searchable by artist name, subject and media.

See also: American Memory under the Museum & Exhibitions listing


Museums & Exhibitions

Museum collections are valuable resources for art in all forms. Painting, sculpture, printmaking, textiles, jewelry and more are assembled in historical, cultural and geographic categories. Some museums have specializations in their collection activity and exhibits change frequently.

American Memory
Thematic collections gathered by the Library of Congress. Images (photographs, prints, line art, etc.) are available in nearly every collection. Click on the "More Browse Options" to access the Browse Collections function that offers a 'Photos & prints' option.

National Gallery of Art
Located in Washington, DC, this is the art gallery for the nation, but collects much more than US artists. Works are available to view and in many cases have a bibliography link to find more information.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art E.Space
An experimental project from SFMOMA to develop online art using a variety of media.

Smithsonian Image Gallery
Over 138,000 images digitized from photographs, slides, paintings and much more. Searchable by using the AMP catalog (includes documents and other materials as well as images) or browse the groupings by type of original media, Smithsonian collection group, or most popular use.

Timeline of Art History
A site provided by the Metropolitan Museum of Art using images from their vast collections. 

University of California San Diego Slide Collection
The images are NOT online, but if you need to know what they have before going to visit the collection, this is the search tool for you. Many of the items are held in the Arts & Architecture Library.

Victoria and Albert Museum: Access to Images
A massive, searchable collection of images from the collections of the V&A Museum in London.

More links to collections, artists, and museums are discussed in David Mattison's article "Looking for Good Art: Web Resources and Image Databases, Part 1". He has some other useful articles on his bibliography at his web site.