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Researching a Topic in 4 Easy Steps
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Researching a Topic in Four Easy Steps:

Step 3b. Consider using alternate types of material: Images and Graphic Materials

See also: visual materials as primary sources.

You might want to use images or graphic materials

  • to study visual evidence for historical or sociological research
  • as primary source materials

There are several places in the Yale University Library where images are located, including Arts of the Book, Beinecke Library, Divinity Library, Manuscripts and Archives Department, the Music Library, and the Visual Resources Collection.

How to find images and graphic material at Yale and beyond: In Orbis you can find visual materials using a keyword search:

Click on the More Limits button before entering your search terms. Select "Visual Materials" from Item Type and click on the Set Limits button.
Example: flower

You can also limit by location to narrow your search further by selecting one or more locations from Collection (Art & Architecture) or Item Type (Manuscripts and Archives). You can select noncontiguous selections from each category by holding down the Ctrl key as you highlight your choices. If your search produces too many results, you can use the Refine Search button to add more limits to those already selected.

For books that have a large component of images, the subject subdivision "pictorial works" can be searched as a phrase in a keyword search.
Example: "pictorial works" and architecture

Additionally when looking for images in printed items do subject searches on your topic, and then look at the records to determine if an item is illustrated by looking in the Description field

example: united states--history--civil war, 1861-1865
     Item Record: Description: 35 p., [1] leaf of plates : map ; 23 cm.

You can also use the advanced search. Execute a search for your topic in any field and pictorial works (graphic arts, photographs, illustrations...) in the subject field. Also notice that you can use More Limits to refine the search by format of material, which will allow you to limit by visual materials.

Arts of the Book

The Arts of the Book Collection is located in the former memorabilia room of Sterling Memorial Library, Room 177, just to the left of the High Street entrance. This non-circulating collection includes both examples of and material relating to the book and its attendant arts: binding, typography, illustration, calligraphy, book design and architecture, paper making and decorative papers, and the history of the book. In addition, the AOB contains collections of printed ephemera, the work of many fine and small presses and a growing number of artists' books, and several named collections, including those of Fritz Eichenberg, Fritz Kredel, Carl Purington Rollins, and the Overbrook Press. Hours and contact information.

Beinecke Library

The Beinecke Library holds a wide variety of graphic and visual images including original photographs and works of art, prints, posters, and illustrations from printed works. Depending on various factors, including format and provenance, an image may be cataloged individually, as part of a manuscript or archival collection, or may be described in a special database. Descriptions of these holdings may be found in Orbis, in the Yale University Library Finding Aid Database, in "Special Files" databases that are available via the Beinecke Library Web page, or in card or published catalogs. In addition, the Beinecke Digital Collections contain thousands of images from the Beinecke's collections, including photonegatives and papyri. Assistance in accessing visual materials in the library may be obtained by contacting the appropriate curator or the Head of Public Services, Ellen Cordes,, (203) 432-2973.

Divinity Library

Many of the Divinity Library's manuscript and archival collections contain photographs, films, or other images. Use the Yale University Library Finding Aid Database to identify relevant material; to search for photographs related to China, for example, include the terms "photographs" and "china", and restrict the search to the Divinity Library. The Divinity Library's United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia Image Database is a web-searchable database that contains information about 8,000 China-related photographs and films held by the Divinity Library; approximately 500 photographs are available in digital format. The Divinity Library also maintains the Yale Divinity Digital Image and Text Library, which includes the AdHoc image and text database related to the history of Christianity, and the Eikon Image Database for Biblical Studies. Assistance in accessing visual materials at the Divinity Library may be obtained from the Research Services Librarian, Martha Smalley,, (203) 432-6374.

Manuscripts and Archives

Manuscripts and Archives holds a large collection of a wide variety of visual materials including architectural drawings and plans, posters, photographs, works of art, and objects, as well as papers of artists. More information about the collections may be found at the following site: Manuscripts and Archives also holds a growing body of motion picture and video collection materials on Yale and other topics. For assistance with reference questions regarding visual image materials, researchers should contact the Reference Desk at (203) 432-1735 or via e-mail:

Music Library

Several of the Music Library's archival collections include images, for example, photographs, paintings, scrapbooks, programs, and posters. Brief descriptions of the contents appear in Orbis and in Archival Papers in the Music Library of Yale University: A Checklist. More detailed information is contained in the finding aids to the collections, which are housed in the Music Library. Some finding aids are available in the Music Library Reference Room and cataloged separately on Orbis, others are kept in the Rare Book Reading Room and can be examined during business hours (M-F, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.) by asking in the Music Library Office (Room ML106M) or by contacting the Public Services Librarian.

The Music Library also maintains a Portrait File, a collection of engravings, prints, and photographs that have come from various sources. An index to this file is kept in the Public Services Librarian's Office.

For appointments to see the archival collections, please contact the Public Services Librarian, Suzanne Eggleston, Music Library Room ML 112,, (203) 432-0497.

Visual Resources Collection

The Yale University Visual Resources Collection is located in Street Hall on High Street and Chapel. The collection is over sixty years old and is comprised of approximately 320,000 slides (both lantern and 35mm) and 187,000 mounted photographs. Visual Resources is part of the library system, and is administered by the Arts Library. Primary patrons are the departments of History of Art, American Studies, and History, and the schools of Art, Architecture, Drama, and Divinity; anyone, however, may use the collection to prepare Yale lectures. Many items from the collection have been digitized and are available on the web through the Visual Resources Collection database and Image Collections at Yale. Please consult with Katherine Haskins ( about digital services and web course support.

The materials in the Visual Resources Collection cannot be found in Orbis. The collection is arranged by medium, i.e. sculpture, painting, architecture, and minor arts. Within in each medium the images are arranged by country and then by artist. Hours and contact information.

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This file last modified 07/17/03
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