Art Reference Library

Welcome to the Art Reference Library of the North Carolina Museum of Art. From its beginnings in a secretary’s office when the Museum opened in downtown Raleigh in 1956, the Museum Library has grown to house over 40,000 volumes. The Museum Library serves as a research-oriented, noncirculating collection, and its core holdings include the personal collection of the Museum’s first director, Wilhelm Reinhold Valentiner. The holdings reflect the Museum’s permanent collection, the exhibitions held in the past and present, and the history of art. In addition to books, patrons can access periodicals, artists’ files, auction catalogues, and electronic resources.

FRIESEKE, The Garden Parasol, 73_1_4


  • Assistance with researching works in the Museum’s permanent collection.
  • Bibliographic or historic information about specific artists or periods.
  • Information about upcoming exhibitions.
  • Other art-related inquiries. 

The Museum Library does not authenticate or give valuations of works of art or out-of-print books. The Museum Library is currently not accepting book and other in-kind donations.


The Library is open to the public by appointment only. Public hours are Wednesday to Friday, 10 am to 4 pm. To request an appointment, complete and submit the Appointment Request Form. For remote research assistance, please contact the Library by email.

Resources and Research

Resources Available in the Library


The Museum Library’s catalogue is part of the State Library’s Government and Heritage Library online catalogue. 


Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online
American dictionary for English word definitions, meanings, and pronunciation.

Oxford Art Online
Reference source on all aspects of the visual arts, including articles and encyclopedic entries on artists, architects, craftsmen, patrons, movements, and periods.

JSTOR is a database of full-text articles from many disciplines. For most journal titles, the full range of years of publication runs can be found (except for the last two to five years depending on the journal title).


The Library has several auction catalogues in its collection, including printed volumes of Gordon’s, Davenport’s, and the Art Price Index. Access to many online auction sites is available through the Museum Library’s in-house subscriptions, including:

Artnet.com is a New York–based database that holds auction results dating from 1984 to the present. Major auction houses are covered, both American and European. This database can be accessed with assistance in the Museum Library.

AskArt.com focuses primarily on American artists. Some information is available without a subscription. More in-depth details can be accessed with assistance in the Museum Library.


BHA—Bibliography of the History of Art
This site is available free, courtesy of the Getty Institute. Entries are updated through December 2009. Newer entries will be available through a paid subscription to a site hosted by ProQuest called IBA (International Bibliography of Art). Indexing will include art from Asia, Latin America, and Africa, in addition to European and American art. A paid subscription is not yet available.  

Research an Artist

There are several ways to use the Museum Library’s resources when doing research about a particular artist. Through a general Web search, you can discover artists’ websites and those of the galleries that represent them. Additional research tools include:

Getty Union List of Artist Names
Bibliography of the History of Art

These are free online tools for doing research. Other helpful resources can be accessed by visiting the Library.


By visiting the library, you can access a variety of resources for information about an artist’s life and works:

Oxford Art Online
Getty Union List of Artist Names


The Library’s collection contains monographs on hundreds of artists. You can see which volumes are in the Library’s collection by using the online catalogue. When searching this catalogue for materials about a particular artist, you will achieve better results if you follow these tips:

  • First, click on the Advanced Search tab for more search options.
  • Enter the artist’s name in the Search box, either as a Keyword search or as a Personal Name as Subject search.
  • In the Library Location box, select Museum of Art Library.

To narrow your search to the holdings of the Museum’s library, choose NC Art Museum Library in the drop-down menu under Library.

Other sources to consult when researching an artist include:

Auction Catalogues
Davenport’sGordon’s, and Art Price Index are good sources for information on the value of an artist’s works and contain references to both the hammer and the premium prices of works. (The hammer price is the highest bid for which an item or lot is sold, and the premium price includes the fee paid by the buyer to the auction house and the hammer price.)

Biographical Dictionaries and Encyclopedias
Useful for general reference as well as for more detailed biographical information about an artist’s life and works.

Catalogues Raisonnés
Definitive catalogues of every known work done by an artist up to the book’s publication date, written by an accepted expert on the artist. 

Artists’ Files
May contain artists’ résumés, exhibition press releases and announcements, and other ephemera. They are arranged alphabetically by artists’ last names and are especially useful for local and lesser-known artists.


Images of works by particular artists can be found in the following databases:

ARTStor This site can be accessed in the Museum Library.


Art History Resources on the Web 
One of the longest-maintained websites; features a comprehensive approach to the art of all world cultures.

Getty Research Institute
Resources available for searching include Provenance Research, Union List of Artist Names, and access to many collections.

Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
A comprehensive timeline found on the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Web page. Each section of the timeline is divided geographically with an overview section, key events, works of art, and related material. The user can browse chronologically or thematically. 

Mother of All Art and Art History Links Pages
Although some of the links on these pages are geared toward students and faculty, much of the information will be of interest to the general art enthusiast, such as an international list of museums, categories of images, and other resources. 

Two professors of art history videotape and record their conversations as they look at works of art. The site is arranged in a chronological timeline; the art historians discuss art from the ancient world to contemporary times. 


Sloane Art Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Harrye B. Lyons Design Library, North Carolina State University
Lilly Library, Duke University

Scroll to Top