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Summer Bridge 2017 English: Helpful Sources

Helpful Sources

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. 

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? 

  • Subject:
    • Toad
      • 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:
    • China:
      • Any particular part of China:
      • What do you know about China? CULTURAL CONTEXT, IDENTITY
  • Material:
    • Porcelain:
      • What do I know about this material?
      • Is this a delicate material?
      • What was it used for? STYLE, FUNCTION/SYMBOLISM
  • Style:
    • 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

Look for contextual information about the toad from the PEM web site:

Here's the PEM's page on Asian Export Art  from the Collections page on (Not sure where to look for contextual information about your object? Look for the name of the gallery it was in).

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
  • West
  • East India Company
  • 15th-20th Centuries
  • blue and white porcelain
  • ivory
  • decorative art
  • export
  • 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?

Portrait of Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1840

Container in the form of a Toad, Last half 17th century

Accessing Library Databases

If you're anywhere on campus, clicking on the title link will bring you into the database. If you're off campus, you'll be asked to log in. Your log in is your SSU email/wireless username and password (s+studentID).  

If you forgot your password, you can reset it here

Research Steps

  • 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).

Need Help?

Talk to your librarian!

Nancy Dennis


Nancy George


Emma McKenna


Zach Newell


Jason Soohoo


Carol Zoppel