Art History

Collection Selector

Ruth Thomas


Mugar Memorial Library

General Purpose of the Collection

The Art History collection reflects the interests of the Department of Art History in the College of Arts and Sciences. The collection also is a resource for the School of Visual Arts in the College of Fine Arts, the African American Studies Program, the American and New England Studies Program, and Metropolitan College art history undergraduate courses and arts administration graduate courses. The collection consists of materials on art history and visual culture including the Renaissance (both Northern and Italian); Western art of the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries; the arts in America, including African American art; classical antiquity; the Middle Ages; European art of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; Islamic art and architecture; African art; Asian art (mainly Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and Buddhist arts of India); architectural history; contemporary art; and the aesthetics and history of photography.

Areas of selective collecting are early Christian and Byzantine art, the Northern and Italian Baroque schools, art theory, art criticism, iconography, art administration, American decorative arts, landscape architecture, museums, collectors and collecting, pre-architecture (preparatory professional architecture), sustainability and green architecture, and historic preservation. Publications that have high quality art reproductions are collected selectively. Materials collected on aesthetics emphasize stylistic analysis. The collection also includes basic and representative material of interest to the broader University community: ancient art other than classical; primitive art; and the arts of Eastern Europe, Russia, Australia, Canada, Latin America, the Middle East, and North America.

The Art History Department requires undergraduate majors to take courses chosen from the areas of ancient; medieval; Renaissance; baroque and eighteenth-century; modern; American; and from the non-Western areas of Asian, African, Islamic or pre-Columbian art. The College of Arts and Sciences awards the BA in Art History and the Graduate School awards the MA and PhD degrees in Art History. The Art History Department awards a certificate in Museum Studies.

Faculty interests include American and European architecture and pre-architecture; African, African American, American, ancient American, Buddhist, French, Graeco-Roman, and Victorian art; Japanese art and architecture from the early modern period to the present; Chinese calligraphy; Islamic art and architecture; European modernism; history of photography; postmodernism; Romanesque sculpture; seventeenth-century Dutch art; urbanism from the Renaissance through the twenty-first century; and material culture.

The Art History collection serves as a resource for other academic programs including Archaeology, Classical Studies, History, Urban Planning, and Theatre. The collection supports the Boston University Art Gallery which is operated by the Department of Art History and the School of Visual Arts in the College of Fine Arts. The annual Boston University Symposium on the History of Art, sponsored by the Department of Art History graduate students and held at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, also makes use of the collection.

Scope of Coverage

Languages collected (primary and selective) or excluded
Materials collected are primarily written in English. Exhibition catalogues and catalogues raisonnés as well as significant monographs and serials in Spanish, Italian, German, and French also are collected. Limited acquisitions are made of Greek, Russian, Dutch, Portuguese, Chinese, and Japanese publications when the publication has a unique value to the collection, i.e., when treatment of the subject is not available in English or in one of the major Western European languages, or when the quality of the reproductions justifies the purchase.
Geographical areas covered by the collections in terms of intellectual content, publication sources, or both, and specific areas excluded, as appropriate
Western Europe and the United States are the primary areas covered by the collections. Recently, Asia (particularly China, Japan, Korea, India, and Central Asia), Africa, and the Islamic world have been added. Material collected is published mainly in the United States and Western Europe. Currently, Japanese, Korean, and Chinese publications are being collected on a limited basis.
Chronological periods covered by the collection in terms of intellectual content, movements or schools, and specific periods excluded, as appropriate
Western, Eastern, and African art from prehistory through the twenty-first century are covered.
Chronological periods collected in terms of publication dates
Current material is collected primarily. Earlier material is purchased to fill in a series gap, to replace a significant work that is missing or damaged, or in response to faculty and student recommendations.

General Subject Boundaries and Library Locations

The subject scope of this collection is determined by the Library of Congress classifications:

  • AM 1-501 : Museums. Collectors and Collecting
  • N : Visual Arts–General
  • NA : Architecture
  • NB : Sculpture
  • NC : Illustration, Design, Drawing
  • ND : Painting
  • NE : Printing
  • NK : Decorative Arts, Applied Arts
  • NX : Arts in General
  • SB450.9-486 : Landscape Gardening, Landscape Architecture, Parks
  • TR 15 : History of Photography
  • TR 140 : Biographies of Individual Photographers
  • TR 640-654 : Artistic Photography
  • Z 1201-4980.A-.Z : National Bibliography
  • Z 5931-5961 : Art History Bibliography
  • Z 8001-8999 : Personal Bibliography

Collected selectively:

  • TR 1-12 : Photography, periodicals, congresses, collections, directories

Not collected:

  • TR 250-835 : Photography, technical

All materials are housed in Mugar Memorial Library.

Related subjects and Interdisciplinary Relationships

The Art History Selector as appropriate may consult with other subject selectors:

African Studies
The Art History Selector consults with the African Studies Selector concerning the purchase of works on African art, both modern and traditional. Retrospective collecting in African art will be undertaken by the African Studies Library.
The Archaeology Selector generally acquires materials on the discovery and preservation of ancient art.
The Art Selector acquires works pertaining to art education, design, drawing, funding for the arts, graphic arts, and typology. The Art History Selector may consult with the Art Selector on the acquisition of materials on contemporary painting, photography, and sculpture.
The Classics Selector may acquire works dealing with ancient authors’ writings on ancient art.
The Communication Selector acquires materials on photojournalism (TR 820-821), commercial art, advertising art, and motion picture cartoons.
The History Selector may consult with the Art History Selector regarding the acquisition of materials for the American and New England Studies Program.
The Philosophy Selector may acquire materials on aesthetics after consultation with the Art History Selector.
The Sociology Selector acquires materials pertaining to city planning (HT 51-1589).

Types of Materials

Books, catalogues raisonnés, exhibition catalogues, and reference materials such as bibliographies, dictionaries, directories, encyclopedias, and indexes and abstracts.
Collected Selectively
Dissertations and theses, electronic resources, microforms, periodicals, and proceedings.
Not Collected
Art objects, artists’ books, audio-visual materials, loose prints and photographs, slides, and textbooks.

Other On-Campus or Local Resources

The Visual Resources Center is a University-wide resource housed and administered by the Art History Department. The Visual Resources Center is responsible for the creation, maintenance, and management of the Cumulus database of the Art History Department, which consists of 60,000 digital art historical images, downloadable for presentations, teaching, and study by faculty and students of Boston University. The database is web-based and is accessible campus-wide on approval for persons holding Boston University email accounts. The Center also houses over 500,000 35mm slides of art historical images, which can be borrowed for class presentations. The Center has a computer lab with PCs and Macs with scanners that may be used by faculty and students for preparation of presentations in digital format. Access to the Center is limited to the Boston University community.

The Boston University Photographic Resource Center‘s Aaron Siskind Library, located at 602 Commonwealth Avenue, currently houses over 4,000 books on photography and 40 periodicals. Its collection does not circulate. The PRC also maintains a gallery. It is a not-for-profit organization that provides a range of programs and services to the arts community.

The Visual Arts Resource Library, located at 855 Commonwealth Avenue in the College of Fine Arts, “is a non-circulating collection of books, exhibition catalogues, directories, magazines, slides, and sound recordings available for SVA students and faculty.” It also houses copies of the Karl Fortess Audio Archive of 269 interviews with American artists. “All original Fortess recordings as well as digital transfers of many of the interviews are held at Boston University’s Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center.”