Research resources
library catalog journal articles First Search Inter Library Loan (ILL) webpages

General Reference Works

You might want to start with some of the standard encyclopedias and artist dictionaries.  Sources like the Dictionary of Art are written by excellent scholars specializing in the topics they are asked to write about.  Also, usually each entry has many further sources. The 36 volume The Dictionary of Art, edited by Jane Turner, is just outside the west door of the slide room.  There are also a number of specialized art historical tools for looking up themes and subject matter.  Some are on permanent open-shelf reserve, others in the regular reserve shelving.  Here are a few of them outside the south door of the slide library, on permanent open-shelf reserve:

Dictionary of Women Artists, ed. by Delia Gaze
The Oxford Guide to Classical Mythology in the Arts, 1300 - 1990s (that's where you'd find out about Ganymede!)
Gertrud Schiller, Iconography of Christian Art

There is a large group of art reference books in the regular general reference shelving, on the first floor (under the "N's").  These include the Encyclopedia of World Art, and the McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Art.  There are too many to list, so depending on your topic, you might want to browse and see if any things looks promising.  For the Schlipalotte paper topic, you might want to take a looks at:

American Artists: Signatures and Monograms 1800 - 1989, compiled by Castagno -- you might find Ludmilla and Lucinda's signatures there.

Dictionary of Women Artists -- an international directory of women artists born before 1900, compiled by Chris Petteys

Library Catalog

The next step, armed with some general information about Ludmilla Schlipalotte, is to begin the process that I call "thrashing" in the library.  (It's one of my favorite activities, and I can almost always find something about just about anything in our library -- often lots of things.)  Use various index-searches first -- try her name under "keyword" (not author, and not title).  But keep going if you don't succeed.  Use your noggin: if there's not a whole book about her, she might be included in a book about the Hutsen Stream school.  Again, don't look up "Hutsen Stream" under "title" because the book When Hills Meet Gaming: The Parallel Development of the Hutsen Stream School and Gambling Casinos won't show up in an alphabetical index of titles.  But it will turn up if you try it with a keyword search, because although it's not the first word in the title, it is in the title.  Similarly, a keyword search will turn up the essay entitled "Gamey Sisters: Ludmilla and Lucinda Schlipalotte of the Hutsen Stream School" by Roxanne Alexander found in the book Increasingly Timeless: Oxymorons and American Painting edited by Constance Changeling (since frequently the titles of essays are included in the searchable information of a book's record).

Once you've found a couple of likely book titles, go to the shelves and browse.  Pick up books no matter how tangentially related and use one of the most important inventions of western scholarship: the index.  In just a few moments you can check to see if the book says anything about Ludmilla.  Snag them and go through them more carefully.

Journal Articles

After you've gone through the books you've come up with, and jotted down the sources that the bibliographies and notes mention, you can start the next type of source-search rolling.  This is to come up with journal articles.  Of course once you have some experience under your belt, you might have a good idea about which art historical journals would be likely to have an article on Ludmilla Schlipalotte.  It's not a bad idea to just go ahead and browse through the most recent issues of those journals.  No doubt, you will find things that you don't know you are looking for, and most successful researchers will agree that an intuition actually develops.  But a more efficient way of locating art history journal articles is to use two dedicated art history indexes.  These are the Art Index and the Bibliography of the History of Art (BHA or BHA/RILA).  Both are on line, but only to an extent.  That is, for older sources, you might have to -- gasp! -- page through each volume separately!  But for more recent articles, you can search them on line, through Skidmore's special set up.  To get to these database connections via the library webpage, click here.  They are very easy to use, just follow the directions.  You can even print out the "hits" on Schlipallote.

After you have a list of articles, you can compare that list with the journals in Skidmore Library.  We have a lot of journals, but ours is a healthy undergraduate library, not a research library.  So a lot of the articles on your list you won't find in the periodicals floor of the library.  So what do you do with that juicy biographical article you came up with, by Clara Judgment, "From Painters to Paupers: The Schlipalotte Sisters Fall in Spa Casinos" in Lifestyles of the Formerly Rich? And how about the study by Marj Arin, "Did the Resins in Ludmilla Schlipalotte's Oil Paints Make her Lame?" in Aramco and Art.  What to do?  Throw them out?  Not on your life!  Fill out a journal request form for Inter Library Loan!  (See more on that below.)  Or send it to them digitally via a ILL request form:  click here for that.

First Search

First Search is a computer database of sources.  One of the things it does is to allow you to perform author, title or keyword searches for journal articles.  One advantage is that it is not limited to Art Historical journals like the Art Index or BHA/RILA.  This is a good option to extend the range of potential articles related to your topic.  For instance, let's say you want to know something more about the local region in which Ludmilla Schlipalotte painted, about the history of Hoosick Falls and Gansevoort.  Those are not "art historical" topics per se, but are related to your interests.  In First Search you can do searches that would turn up articles in social science journals, journals relating to population studies, regional studies, etc.

There are two other great things about First Search.  One is that it will also search for books.  You can repeat the searches you started with in the Skidmore Library list, but have access to the holdings of a library of libraries.  The second thing is that within First Search you can start the process of actually getting that source.  Once you've found the "record" of your source -- that is, the publication data, exact title, journal volume etc. -- you can even discover which libraries have it.  If it's Skidmore or Saratoga Springs, or perhaps even SUNY-Albany, you can get it yourself.  But if it's a more distant library, what are you going to do?

Inter Library Loan, of course!  (See below for more on ILL.) A great feature of First Search is that you can fill out an on-line form, and send that record directly to the Skidmore ILL.  Your request for the journal article or book is attached to the record, and that makes the ILL people's job that much faster.  They don't have to look up the book to find out where it is -- you've already done that for them.  They just figure out which library is most likely to loan it expeditiously to Scribner Library, and as soon as it's received, they let you know.  Hey, presto, more sources on your desk!

Once again, Skidmore Library has a special account with First Search, so you individually don't have to pay for each search.  You can go into it through the Library's webpage.

Inter Library Loan (ILL)

ILL is one of the true, genuine success stories of the "computer revolution."  Now you are not limited to a single library or even a regional library system.  Many libraries belong to a network that agrees to lend books to each other.  How this works is pretty simple: we have geniuses with magical powers working in ILL and they procure books for you.  The less you know, the better.  All you have to do is present AS COMPLETE PUBLICATION DATA AS POSSIBLE, either filling out a card, sending a First Search e-mail (see above), or filling out an electronic request form (click here) and they will get the book or journal article for you.  It's usually free.

The trick is to do the research to find the sources early enough in the semester to get the sources in time.  It may take three weeks -- more if there's a holiday or two immediately ahead.  So the sooner you get the jump on finding more sources on Ludmilla Schlipalotte's work, the more brilliant your research paper will seem.  That's because a lot of what is research is just organizing information.  There's at least three opportunities to be creative: in acquiring information (i.e. finding sources), in organizing information, and in interpreting information.  You can't even begin to do steps two and three without step one.  It's crucial.

Another word to the wise: don't cite your textbook as an important source of information in your paper.  It's a little incestuous to do so, and shows a lack of initiative.  If you want to use it, check out the sources it lists in its bibliography.  They might be useful to you.


Unlike ILL, webpages as sources are not an unqualified success story of the computer revolution.  Some professors still resist crediting the use of any webpages for student papers.  Why?  Are they just dusty curmudgeons from an ancient age?  Not necessarily.  There are several good reasons to hesitate.  The main reasons are accountability and reliability.  Like anything else, you need to assess your sources.  Who wrote them?  What sources did they use?  Unlike a webpage, a book or an article is very rarely self-published.  Someone, at least, has assessed the reliability and merit of what is published in print.  But any of us can create a webpage, and the only qualification is computer-literacy, and interest in the subject.

For instance, I may be a big fan of Ludmilla Schlipalotte -- because, you see, she was the great aunt of my grandmother -- and might post any story that's been passed down in my family about her.  But I don't have the time or the interest to verify it -- hey, my mother told me these stories, I should doubt her?  Well, yes.  You should.  Before you use a webpage, you should find out the motivation and the credentials of the person or group posting it.  If the web-address is a historical society, a real (not virtual) museum, or some other credible source, go ahead and use the material they have made available.

If you feel satisfied that this webpage was created by someone with real expertise, then include it, but also include something that verifies it.  Whether you know it or not, when you cite a book or article in your bibliography in the full, proper form, you are giving your reader something by which to judge the validity of that source.  What I'm referring to here are the publication information included in your bibliography.  When I see that a major publisher produced the book you cite, I assume with a fair degree of confidence that it has gone through a kind of vetting process.  Same for a major journal.  So if you get "opinions" or "facts" or "data" from an online source, be sure to figure out where they are coming from, and include that in your citation of it.  Certainly, just the web address is not enough.  Why not?  Because that puts the onus on your reader to go check it out and assess it.  Provide some information about who is producing the cite.  For instance, this very webpage might be cited if you were researching how to do art historical research.  In that case, it is quite appropriate to include the fact that it is part of the Art History program official website at Skidmore College.

Hedge Your Research Bets

When you do research, and when you write that research up, don't be uni-dimensional.  That is, use different kinds of sources.  Think consciously and critically about the kinds of sources you use.  Try not to use just one type -- say books published between 1940 and 1965.  Be sure to use some current sources as well.  Old is gold -- a lot of good work was done in the 19th and early 20th century, so don't ignore those sources.  But don't depend on them exclusively either.  Same with webpages.  Don't turn in a paper that only cites websources and expect laurels from your professor.  Mix a few webpage source into a network of books and journals, the latest, relatively recent, and old and nearly forgotten.

Finally, doing research is creative.  It is finding creative solutions to the "problem" of putting your finger on widely dispersed information and interpretation.  Use all the tools available, and you will end up being very well informed.  Once that happens, you can use your own insight to make original contributions.  That's the key to doing outstanding papers: demonstrating that you are informed, and then sharing creative and constructive insights.

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