Reference librarians are on duty during library hours for consultations in person, over the phone at (202) 842-6511, or through our ask a librarian form.
Most scholars’ and students’ investigations begin with the library's online catalog. Sections of the catalog further index resources such as auction catalogs, proprietary databases, and full-text services and provide links to art history resources on the web.
Those investigating a new topic often begin reading in general sources for introduction to artists, artistic movements, techniques, and bibliographies. The reference collection, on the ground floor of the East Building Study Center, includes dictionaries, encyclopedias ranging from general to specific, handbooks, guides, surveys, and indexes. The reference holdings complement the Gallery’s collections of painting and sculpture by emphasizing related biographical and geographical information and striving for depth in the history of religion, theology, and early Christianity. The collection also includes reference books recording sales and artists’ signatures. An extended selection of books on the history of European printing and publishing complements the holdings of the rare book room.
Nearly 50 art-related subscription databases, including indexes to periodicals, specialized dictionaries and encyclopedias, and image repositories are offered on site. Full-text sources including JSTOR, Project Muse, Pro-Quest Dissertations and Theses, historical newspapers, and Jacques-Paul Migne’s Patrologia Latina complement the collection of printed books.
A wealth of digital resources at the Library of Congress is available in the library’s buildings on Capitol Hill six days a week.