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Art, Art History & Museum Studies: Art Terms

A guide for resources in art, art history, and museum studies

Art Dictionaries

Art Terminology

Below are definitions of types of resources you may encounter in databases like GEORGE, BHA, and ARTbibliographies Modern, including reasons why you might consider using them.

Catalogue raisonné

Exhibition catalogue


Museum catalog (or collection catalog)


Auction (or sales) catalog

  • Document the sale of a given artwork on a specific date.
  • Citations for them sometimes appear in library catalogs, bibliographies, or art-related databases.
  • Often contain such high-quality illustrations that you may be able to examine artists' signatures or other artist marks.
  • Georgetown University Library does not actively collect auction catalogs; however, you will find them in the collections of local museum libraries, like the National Gallery of Art and Smithsonian Institution Libraries.
  • Use to search for auction records by artist. (Please see a Reference Librarian for password.)

Consult an auction catalog when:

  • You would like to determine the relative monetary value of an artist's work (at the time of the sale).
  • You wish to find an illustration of an artwork that is privately owned.
  • You would like to track the provenance of an object (if the buyers' and sellers' names are included in the auction record).



A monograph is a book on a single subject. For the history of art, you will find monographs about artists, individual artworks, movements, time periods, and themes. In databases like BHA, you may encounter citations for particular types of monographs called festschriften - a book of essays written in honor of a scholar. Essays in a festschrift usually focus on subject matter of particular interest to the honored scholar; they are excellent resources for essays on well-defined topics.

Consult an monograph when:

  • You are beginning your research and would like to explore what scholarship is already available on your topic.
  • You would like to expand your own bibliography by examining what sources an author used in his/her research.
  • You are simply interested in learning more about an artist, artwork, movement, period, or theme.

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