Indexes and abstracts

One of the few areas of art documentation were online resources have completely replaced print ones is that of indexing (bibliographic citation) and abstract (summaries of content) services for periodicals and other material, like fetschriften and conference proceedings. Printed volumes and supplements were replaced by CD-ROMs from the 1980s, while these were superseded in turn by online databases from the 1990s, to an extent where many libraries today no longer keep local physical copies of this kind of material. More suitable in terms of delivery (frequent updates), functionality (improved search facilities, integration with other online resources), accessibility (off-campus, 24/7 access) and other considerations (publishing bussiness models, shelving space constraints, etc.), many of these databases are produced and/or distributed by commercial companies, while some of them also offer full-text content. This increasing provision of born-digital or digitised content, combined with metasearching and link resolvers, offer a seemless online research environment. However, most of the literature of the visual arts is still in print format only, and indexes play a fundamental role in providing access to it.



The Bibliography of the History of Art (BHA) replaced RILA (International Repertory of the Literature of Art) and RAA (Répertoire d’Art et d’Archéologie) in 1990. Published in electronic form only since 2000, when the final print volume came out, it was a joint project between the Getty Research Institute and the Institut de l’Information Scientifique et Technique-CNRS. Containing ca. 590,000 records* and covering 1,400 journals, as well as other materials, the BHA/IBA is often regarded as the most comprehensive index for scholarly publications on the history of art.


At the end of 2007, the collaboration between the GRI and the INIST-CNRS ceased, with the GRI continuing production of the database under the name of the International Bibliography of Art (IBA), while searching for collaborative partnerships. This search was unsuccessful and, in August 2009, the GRI announced that it would no longer publish the database due to budget reductions. Further negotiations to find a new publisher failed and, as a result, the Getty Research Institute informed subscribers that it will not provide access to BHA beyond 31 March 2010. The latest information at the time of writing this column (26 March) seems to indicate that BHA/IBA will not be available via other suppliers, subscribers will not have access to the backfile and there will not be future content updates.


This is a very unfortunate situation, and while we hope that a solution that allows BHA/IBA to continue is found, there are a number of other indexes for the visual arts.


Other commercial indexing and abstract databases

Art Full Text (WilsonWeb) offers full text articles (including colour images) from ca. 200 journals with coverage starting in 1997, and indexes some 500 titles (1984-); Art Retrospective (WilsonWeb) indexes ca. 600 titles published during the period 1929-1984. ArtBibliographies Modern (CSA), includes ca. 390,000 records covering ca. 420 journals and other publications focusing on modern and contemporary art published from 1974. The Design & Applied Arts Index (CSA) contains in excess of 210,000 records covering ca. 500 design journals and other publications from 1973. The Design Abstracts Retrospective (Design Research Publications), covers ca. 60 design publications from 1900-1987 (41,000 records). The Avery Index to Architectural Periodical Literature (Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University) with ca. 640,000 records (ca. 2,800 journals 1934 -, selective coverage back to 1741), specialises in architecture.


The Arts & Humanities Citation Index (Thomson Reuters Web of Science), which contain references which have been cited by other articles, and the British Humanities Index (CSA), cover a wider rage of subjects, but are relevant and include much useful material within the arts field.


E-Journal collections like Academic Search Elite, Ingenta Connect, JSTOR, Project Muse, etc. can also be used to discover relevant articles.


Some specialist indexes

Index to theses is a comprehensive database indexing all higher degree dissertations accepted by UK and Irish universities from 1716. EThOS (British Library), launched in January 2009 and still in development (Beta), provides access to British thesis; ADIT: Art & Design Index to Thesis, funded by AHRC and based at Sheffield Hallam University, is a comprehensive index of postgraduate research theses in art and design in the UK.;jsessionid=FED8699777F93923E4EC08E93CDFFBDB


SCIPIO (OCLC) indexes auction sales catalogues from all major European and North American auction houses as well as many private sales. The RIBA Library catalogue is also an index to more than 300 architectural journals.


JISC announced in December 2009 that funding to the Intute service will cease in its current form from 1 August 2010. A gateway to internet resources of academic value, Intute replaced Resource Discovery Network (RDN) in 2006. A similar service focused on art history resources is offered by, a collaborative project of several German academic institutions funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), and includes an index to articles published online and a gateway to art history websites.


* All figures from publishers’ websites.


[Grandal Montero, G. (2010) Resources online: Indexes and abstracts. ARLIS News-sheet, no. 205, May-June, pp. 3-4.]


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