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[FAS] GEN ED 1081: The Celts: People or Construct?


This resource guide has been designed for students in The Celts: People or Construct?, a Spring 2020 Gen Ed course taught by Catherine McKenna, with Teaching Fellow Celeste Andrews. 

Celtic Head - from Northern England?

The resources and strategies here are targeted to help you find the information you'll need for your Iron Age Celtic artifact project and your final research project on an ethnonym.

Remember that good research is often about following up on hunches, testing out a hypothesis and then seeing where else (or to what else) it leads. You may need to try several search combinations before you strike gold. 

Let us know how else we can help as your research gets underway. We can triage by email or set up a time to meet online for a longer talk about your project. Enjoy your work! 

Ramona Crawford, Liaison for Celtic Languages and Literatures, Services for Academic Programs 

Beate Gersch, Liaison for General Education, Services for Academic Programs

Image: Celtic Head [from Northern England?], Cleveland Museum of Art

Researching Your Celtic Artifact

Choose Advanced Search to specify the Fine Arts Digital Images & Slides collection, to conduct your search, or modify this pre-constructed search.

Additional online resources for digital images may be found in the Fine Arts Library's Guide to Research in History of Art and Architecture.

To access, first click the VIEW ONLINE link. Next, click on the words Advanced Search. Then, in the left-hand column, select Grove Art Online.

This database includes several authoritative articles on visual and material culture, including articles dedicated to materials, such as gold or bronze. Some may provide clues to help you analyze your Iron Age Celtic artifact:

In the Advanced Search, you can specify particular subject areas, such as:

Archaeology or Art & Art History

Researching Your Ethnonym

Nota bene: The following dictionaries and encyclopedias may be relevant to researching some of your ethnonyms, In some cases, an obvious candidate did not appear in online form; that said, if an English-language source isn't needed, other relevant titles may be available online. Additionally, several articles are likely available for each ethnonym. The following list is focused mainly on reference books in this category. I will be happy to work with you individually if you're interested in digging into HOLLIS and databases together to find a suitable philological source for your ethnonym. My contact information is at the top of this guide. Please also talk with your professor and TF in regard to these sources--they are the language experts!

Variant Spellings

Especially when looking for primary sources, try variant spellings of your ethnonym, and consider terms used by members of the group to describe themselves (i.e., endonym or autonym terms), as well as terms used by outside groups to describe this people (i.e., exonym terms). Because so many of the resources available are in English, you often may need to search for the name of the group translated in English, as opposed to the authentic term in the original language.

For example, Kootenai (or Kutenai) has been spelled many different ways: “Kootenai,” “Kootanay,” “Kootenaes,” and in some 19th century works, as “Cattanhowes,” “Cootonais,” “Cootanies,” “Coutanies,” or “Kootenays.” 

Subject Headings

Especially when searching HOLLIS for books, try a search using subject headings, controlled vocabulary terms used to consolidate a large number of resources on one topic. To find out if there is a Library of Congress subject heading for your ethnonym, choose the Browse option in HOLLIS, or if you want to do a thorough check for broader, narrower, or related terms, have a peek at the Library of Congress Subject Headings PDF files, browsing by letter (these are long documents that take a while to load, so be patient, and use keyboard shortcuts like Cntrl-F or Cmd-F to search within the file).

In the Advanced Search of HOLLIS and many databases, you can mix subject headings with simple key terms by using AND between the different queries. To capture variant spellings and synonyms, combine similar terms one one line, with OR between each of them.

In addition to subject terms describing your group, some subject headings that may be helpful for the ethnoym project include: 

  • ethnic groups
  • ethnic identity
  • ethnohistory
  • ethnology
  • indigenous peoples
  • names
  • names, ethnological
  • cultural ethnography

Additionally, the following terms, which are not Library of Congress Subject Headings, may be of use in HOLLIS keyword searching or may work as topical terms in other databases beyond HOLLIS:

  • culture
  • cultural identity
  • ethnological names
  • heritage


As you gather relevant sources, select some based on scholarly merits (peer review for journals, academic presses for books), and select others, particularly primary sources, for authenticity. Place the voices of your sources in conversation, conscious of the situational contexts and power dynamics from which they emerged. In this process, summon your own voice as a connecting, guiding thread. Be honest about any barriers you encounter to representing one or more perspectives. Are you limited by language or by documentation practices that privileged some voices over others? How might you overcome some of those challenges?

Citing Your Sources

Take the time to read your style manual. In addition to telling you how to format citations, these guides offer tips on how to balance concision with clarity, how to format a date for adjectival use, when to use the singular they, and much more.

Use Zotero! Follow the Harvard-specific installation steps on Zotero: Getting Started