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Art History, Curating and Visual Studies: Websites

Subject support from Library Services for staff and students in Art History, Curating and Visual Studies

Evaluating web sources

Anyone can put information on the web, so how can you tell if it's reliable and accurate?

Ask yourself:

  • Who is the author?  Do they have qualifications/a reputation in the relevant area?
  • Is the web site affiliated with anorganisation?  If so, what is the mission of that organisation?
  • Has the information been properlyreferenced?  Are the references authoritative?
  • When was the site last updated?
  • Is there any reason for bias on this web site?
  • Has the website been well presented in an appropriately academic style?
  • Has anyone recommended this web site to you?
  • Does the information match what you have learned from other sources?

Using websites to find information in your field

Useful websites that are relevant to the Art History, Curating and Visual Studies include:


  • Bridgeman Education
    (via FindIt) Bridgeman Education contains images relating to the visual culture of every civilization from all continents covering prehistoric times to the present. The images which include photography, fine art, engravings, sculpture, architecture, archaeology & ethnography, history, science & medicine, decorative arts and artifacts, are taken from museums, galleries, historic houses, private collections, photographers and artists. The site offers an excellent quality of image and metadata (captions and keywords). Images can be used legally in presentations within University of Birmingham.
  • Google Art Project
    Over one thousand artworks online in extraordinary detail from 17 major galleries. Navigate your way around the galleries using a virtual tour and select the works. Use the custom viewer to zoom into paintings. Requires GoogleChromeFrame which is freely downloadable.
  • Your Paintings
    Your Paintings is a joint initiative between the BBC, the Public Catalogue Foundation, and thousands of galleries and other collections from across the UK which aims to show the entire UK national collection of oil paintings, the stories behind the paintings, and where to see them for real.

Finding information on the internet

There is a huge range of information on the Internet, but you need to be vigilant about the quality of what you find. Using subject gateways and sites which are created by subject specialists will ensure that you find information that has been evaluated for its academic quality.

Wikipedia - good or bad?

Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia, written collaboratively by anyone who wishes to contribute. Many people are constantly editing Wikipedia, making thousands of changes per hour. For more information, seeAbout Wikipedia.

Anyone with access to the internet can edit almost every page, and this is both the strength and the weakness of the site: 

  • Because there are so many people willing to freely give their time and expertise to Wikipedia, the content can be an excellent introduction to a topic, well-referenced, and mistakes are often corrected quickly. 
  • However, because edits can be made anonymously, we cannot know whether the author is an expert on the subject or whether they have a particular agenda to push.

Wikipedia is not considered to be a suitably authoritative source of information for academic study.

It is not a good idea to reference Wikipedia in your assignments. If you choose to use Wikipedia as a starting point for your topic, however, the article will introduce you to the key vocabulary for the topic which will be useful for further searching in and bibliographic databases.

For guidance on how to evaluate the quality of Wikipedia articles, see Evaluating Wikipedia article quality.