Getting Started with Research
The following library databases and web sites are good places to look for background on your objects.
History in Context
These resources help you situate your objects in their historical context.
The following library databases and web sites will help you delve deeper into your objects.
Example #1: Researching the container in the form of a toad, last half 17th century
Closely read the information on the label:
What does the label tell? How might this information be used in your research paper?
- What do you know about toads (or frogs)?
- Is there a cultural significance here? CULTURAL CONTEXT, FUNCTION/SYMBOLISM
- Time Period:
- 17th century: 1600-1699.
- What else was going on in the world then? CULTURAL CONTEXT, IDENTITY
- Geographical Location:
- Any particular part of China:
- What do you know about China? CULTURAL CONTEXT, IDENTITY
- What do I know about this material?
- Is this a delicate material?
- What was it used for? STYLE, FUNCTION/SYMBOLISM
- Is the object realistic?
- If not, is is "sort of" realistic, but with artistic license?
- Would you see a blue toad anywhere in the world?
- What has the artist done to make this his/her "own" toad? STYLE
- What does this object do?
- How might it have been used? STYLE, FUNCTION/SYMBOLISM
- Who was the owner?
- Can you tell?
- Was this a gift to the Museum, or is it on loan? CULTURAL CONTEXT, IDENTITY,FUNCTION/SYMBOLISM
Based on your analysis of the label, and preliminary reading from the PEM site,
Use the following terms to research the context of the blue toad in library databases and web sites listed in the left frame:
- East India Company
- 15th-20th Centuries
- blue and white porcelain
- decorative art
- animal symbols
- symbolism of frogs
- china trade and Salem, MA
Example #2: Comparing the Nathaniel Hawthorne Portrait with the Blue Toad Sculpture
Is it possible to compare a 19th century American portrait of Nathaniel Hawthorne and the 17th century Chinese container in the shape of a toad?
How are they similar? How are they different?
How do they relate to the concepts of Identity, Style, Function/Symbolism, and Cultural Context?
Can these objects "talk" to each other?
Accessing Library Databases
- Choose Objects
- Decide how to compare them (Identity, Style, Function/Symbolism, Cultural Context)
- Look up objects on PEM website- look for art terms to search
- Look up art terms and other special terms using library databases.
- Search for keywords relating to your object in a periodical database or on a web site. (See list in left frame).
Talk to your librarian!