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MUSE E-102 | Writing Skills Proseminar For Museum Studies


This guide is designed to support research in MUSE E-102.

It may be that simply learning HOLLIS conventions and practicing searching there will be sufficient for your E-102 research assignment.

However, because museum studies encompasses so many things, we've also tried to give you a few other resource types to pack into your "toolkit":  a few important book series to know about, some standard reference tools, some subject databases to use alongside HOLLIS, and links to directories and associations, in case they're helpful to you, now or later. 

The staff of the Harvard Fine Arts Library and the curators at the Harvard Museums of Science and Culture Art can offer additional, special kinds of subject expertise. You should feel free to contact them for a virtual consultation on a project.

Enjoy your research and reach out at any point for advice or with questions! We can email, or meet on Zoom to talk at more length.

Sue Gilroy, Librarian for Undergraduate Writing Programs, Lamont Library

Jonathan Paulo, Online Learning and Reference Librarian, Lamont Library

HOLLIS: Discovering Harvard's Research Collections


1.  Understand what it is.

HOLLIS combines the extensive contents of our library catalog, the record every item owned by every Harvard Library, with those of another huge index of multidisciplinary databases of journal, newspaper, and magazine articles. 


When you search "everything" you are searching both of these together, at once. 


2. Know how to search.

Creating search strings with some of the techniques below can help you get better results up front. 




3. Take control of your results.

While the broad and panoramic approach to searching HOLLIS can be mind-opening, you can sometimes find yourself overwhelmed by either the numbers or types of results your search returns.


When that happens, try one of these easy tricks:


Limit your Everything search results set just to the items listed in the LIBRARY CATALOG.

Your numbers will immediately get smaller. Keep in mind, though, that the results will be heavily weighted toward book-length studies.


Limit your Everything search results set to items that are identified as PEER REVIEWED ARTICLES.

You'll eliminate newspaper and magazine materials as well as books, of course, but you'll also raise the visibility of scholarly journal articles in what displays. 


Think about limiting your results to publications from the last 5, 10, 15, or 20 years.

By doing so you'll get a snapshot of the most recent research trends and scholarly approaches in a field (or around a particular issue).

Experiment with limiting your searches to materials available  
You'll reduce your numbers of books by a wide margin --not always a good strategy, but an expedient one when needed. 

Scan and Deliver / Borrow Direct

Here are some ways to think through your digital options in HOLLIS:

1. Scan & Deliver

This service, free to Harvard students, can be a lifesaver when you find something in the catalog that's essential -- but only available in print.

Scan & Deliver allows you to request a PDF of an article, a portion of a book (up to two chapters), and in some circumstances, a portion of one of our special collections. 

Normally, a Scan and Deliver request is filled within 4 days of submission. Often, it's sooner than that. Use this service liberally -- that's what it's there for!

NOTE: Initiate Scan and Deliver requests through HOLLIS. When your PDF is ready, you'll receive an email with a link to the document. 

2. Borrow Direct (if you're in / near Cambridge)

Materials that we do not have -- or that are otherwise unavailable -- might be owned by one of our consortial partners (the other Ivies, MIT, U Chicago, Johns Hopkins, and Stanford). 

If you live close by one our consortial partners, you can inquire about the current availability of Borrow Direct Plus. In normal times, that gives you on-site access to stacks and collections; in COVID times, it may enable front-door/curbside pick-up.

When you're far from Cambridge, identifying books in print and on shelves in Harvard's library buildings can seem like a futile exercise. You can, however, often get your hands on items your find in HOLLIS even if you live many miles away from the Yard.


1.  WorldCatthis is a database of library catalogs and useful for identifying college, university, and other  library collections that are in your vicinity.  Search for the title and then enter your Zip Code to identify your options. With WorldCat, you're going beyond the BorrowDirect consortium and beyond our reciprocal lending agreements.  However, as long as any of the area libraries allow you in (often a phone call or a scan of the website will clarify policy), you'll be in luck!

2. Check the catalog of the large PUBLIC LIBRARY in your area.  Depending on the region, the size of the library, its mission, and its funding, a local public library may have a significant research component to its collection (The Boston Public Library at Copley Square is a prime example), including e-books and some digitized materials that Harvard may not have.

Public libraries large and small also have access to ebooks, and can be a rich alternative source if Harvard doesn't have what you need or you can't get to our copy.

Moreover, because you are a Harvard student, you're eligible for a BPL ecard, no matter where you're Zooming in from these days; you'll need to sign in with your Harvard email and key to get access, however. See BPL: Who's Eligible for an Ecard? for the registration link.

3. Ask your local library about an INTERLIBRARY LOAN.  Libraries routinely borrow from each other on behalf of their patrons; if you have a library card, you should be able to request it (or have a librarian do so).  ILL can take a bit of time, however. You might wait a week or a bit more before the item arrives. Some places charge a small fee for the service. 

5. If you live close by the college or university from which you graduated, ask about ALUMNI PRIVILEGES there; even in COVID times, it's good to check on your options.

6. Internet Archive Open LibraryFor books not available online via a HOLLIS link or through HathiTrust, the Open Library may be a good next step. You'll need to create a free account to "check out" books (temporarily, for up to 2 weeks).  

Journal Databases: Museum Studies Beyond HOLLIS


Academic Search Premier

This database will be an excellent next step after you've sampled what's available in HOLLIS. Academic Search Premier is also multidisciplinary in its coverage, also provides you with a range of article types (some scholarly, some not). But while still broad, it's a smaller universe than HOLLIS.

Google Scholar

Familiar and current, it also searches full-text which can be an advantage when you've got a very narrow topic or are seeking a "nugget" that traditional database searching can't surface easily. Google Scholar incorporates more types of information -- not just books and journal contents-- and depending on your need, comfort level, and perspective, that eclecticism can be an advantage.  

Google Scholar is perfectly acceptable for most general forays into scholarship; its algorithms are excellent and do return relevant results. 

NOTE: One simple change can turn Google Scholar into what's effectively a Harvard database -- with links to the full-text of articles that the library can provide. Here's what to do: 

  • Look to the left of the GS screen and click on the "hamburger" (); then click on 
  • Look for "Library Links." 
  • Then type Harvard University into the search box and save your choice.  As long as you allow cookies, the settings will keep. 



Art Full-Text:

In addition to covering art historical topics in depth, this database also covers topics such as museum design and construction; programming, exhibition spaces, and visitor experiences; cultural heritage; museum collections and their curation.

ARTbibliographies Modern  

The scope of ARTbibliographies Modern extends from artists and movements beginning with Impressionism in the late 19th century, up to the most recent works and trends in the late 20th century. The database covers all aspects of modern and contemporary art, including performance art and installation works, video art, computer and electronic art, body art, graffiti, artists' books, theater arts, crafts, jewelry, illustration, and more, as well as the traditional fine arts of painting, printmaking, sculpture, and drawing. 

The International Bibliography of Art 

This database provides the most comprehensive coverage of scholarship in the disciplines of art history and architectural history. It will surface information on articles published, since 2008, from 1,200 academic journals. Also included are citations to art-related book content, conference proceedings, dissertations, and exhibition catalogs.


Business Premium Collection

This database is considered the gold standard for researching business-related topics of all kind.  If you're interested in museum marketing, planning, funding, or administration, this is a resource to explore.


This database provides comprehensive industry reports (including a March 2021 report on US Museums) that detail key demographic and business trends and outlooks.


Communication Abstracts

Comprehensive access to communication-related publications on a world-wide scale.

ERIC [Educational Resources Information Center]

Use this database for topics that touch on museum education, exhibit creation, and instructional practice.


America: History and Life

The essential database for topics related to the U.S. and Canada.  Local history is well-represented, as is scholarship on history museums more generally.

The companion database for world history is Historical Abstracts.



Contains full-text of nearly 30 journals and newsletters, all published by the American Anthropological Association. Look here for discussions of cultural heritage, material culture, museums of anthropology, science, and natural history (among other things). 

Social Science Premium Collection

A core resource for researchers, professionals, and students working in sociology, social planning and policy, and many related disciplines. It draws its contents from more than 1800 journals, relevant dissertations, selected books and book chapters, and association papers, as well as citations for book reviews and other media. Look here for studies of museum culture, the social experience of museums, the political dimensions of museums and collections, etc. 



History of Science, Technology, and Medicine

A good choice for projects that might involve natural history museums and science/technology-focused museum topics, particularly in their historical contexts.

Web of Science

Broadly searches across the sciences, social sciences, and humanities. 

NOTE: the default display of results is by year; you may get more pertinent information -- depending on your topic -- by resorting by relevance. 

Museum Organizations and Directories


AAM: American Alliance of Museums 

Since 1906,  the AAM has been a leader in developing best practices and advocating for museums, as well as providing a host of opportunities to museum staff and volunteers. More than 35,000 individual museum professionals and volunteers, institutions, and corporate partners benefit from the work of the Alliance. Membership is reasonably priced -- if you're inclined to join -- and provides many benefits, including access to its Resource Library and the full archive of its flagship publication, Museum Magazine. In addition to a topics page, blog postings, data and fact sheets, the site also links to Museopunks, a podcast on progressive museum work. 

ICOM [International Council of Museums] 

ICOM, housed at the UNESCO building in Paris, is an international organization representing museums and museum professionals. Founded in 1946, ICOM represents 136 countries and territories. In addition to publishing standards, ethical guidelines, issue statements, bibliographies, and Red Lists (of threatened cultural properties across the globe), it also provides substantial news content.

IMLS [Institute of Museum and Library Services] 

IMLS is the central US government funding agency for museum initiatives. In addition to a good deal of grant information, it makes many reports and publications available, and has a robust data catalog. 

NEA [National Endowment for the Arts]

In addition to its grant-funding arm, the NEA has published, since 1982, the largest, most representative survey of adult patterns in arts participation. From the survey home page, you can link into research reports and arts data profiles, including archived ones.

The Official Museum Directory 

The authority for reliable museum data, the Directory is a one-stop source for museum professionals, students, library patrons, and researchers who need comprehensive information on those institutions committed to celebrating and preserving the world’s culture, art, music, nature, and history. (Access provided via Harvard)