Resources for Basic Fine Arts Research at the Boston Public Library

Whether you have a paper to write or an interest in the subject, here are some resources at the Boston Public Library to help you if you’d like to do some basic research on Fine Arts. 


The Boston Public Library offers books from two publishers that are great starting points for learning about art movements, artists, architecture, and fashion:

  • The World of Art series     
    • British publisher Thames & Hudson creates these small books which provide an excellent overview of both art movements and individual artists.  Please click on the link in the title to be taken to a list of the books in this series owned by the Boston Public Library.
  • The Oxford History of Art series     
    • Published by Oxford University Press, this series concentrates more on art movements than on individual artists, but the books are well-researched and easy to read. Please click on the link in the title to be taken to a list of the books in this series owned by the Boston Public Library.

Fine Arts Book locations

  • Books that can be checked out and taken home are found on the second floor of the Boylston Building with the call number letter N. 
  • Books that cannot be checked out and must be used in the library only are stored in the non-public areas of the library called the stacks. These books must be requested at and picked up from the Delivery Desk which is located on the second floor of the library between the Boylston Street Building and McKim Building. 


Articles can be found in electronic databases, accessible from home, or in physical issues of print newspapers and magazines which must be used in the library.

Location for electronic resources: On the Boston Public Library website; click “Learning & Research” in the red menu at the top of the page; click “Online Resources” then, under “By Subject” click “View All” and Art and Architecture will appear. This is a list of our Art and Architecture databases.

Most of the physical copies of journals are in the stacks at the Central Library at Copley Square. Some may be at the Archival Center and take 1-2 weeks to be sent to the Central Library. 


To find resources that provide images please follow the instructions for Articles; scroll all the way down to the bottom for “Images.”

Another resource for photographs, manuscripts, books, audio recordings, and other materials of historical interest that have been digitized and made available to the public by a statewide consortium of libraries, museums, archives, and historical societies from across Massachusetts is

Original Art and Archival Materials

Some original art is on display in the Central Library; however, most of the original art items owned by the Boston Public Library, including original architectural blueprints, the archives of stained glass artist Charles Connick, and over 120,000 drawings and prints and other material are located in the Special Collections Department. To contact Special Collections to make an appointment to see our holdings visit:

If you need further assistance please go to the Reference Desk in the Washington Room in the Central Library or contact us by sending an email via We’ll be happy to help!