Visual research is the process of identifying, gathering, and classifying images to support the construction, application, and understanding of visual culture. Visual research reviews both primary sources (images from the period in question) and secondary sources ("visual reference" books and databases).
This guide gathers examples of both primary and secondary sources for Set Design. For additional visual reference sources see the Historic Costume: North America and Western Europe or the Historic Costume: 20th & 21st c. America & the UK research guides.
1. Divide your topic into categories using where, when, tone, etc. For example:
My topic: Vienna in the 18th century; a palace, interior bedroom. It’s an opera.
What: Palace interiors
When: 18th century
2. Get background information -- Learn more about the place, the people who lived there, historical, religious and political setting, important music, art, literature, etc.
TIP: Use Grove Art Online for quick, authoritative background information:
Capital of Austria
Wien and Danube rivers
Near the Alps & Carpathian mountains
Home to German kings, Holy Roman Emperors & Austrian emperors
Habsburg royal family made Vienna one of the most important centers of the Baroque and Rococo in northern Europe.
3. Expand your list of keywords, and add additional categories for different parts of your design:
What: Palace interiors, Household objects of the Hapsburgs, kings, etc. such as furniture, boxes, jewelry, mirrors, etc.
Where: Vienna, Austria, Danube river, Wien River, Alps, Carpathian mountains
When: 18th century, 1700s,
Tone: Luxurious, Baroque, Rococo
Who: Holy Roman Emperors, Austrian Emperors, German Kings, Habsburgs
4. Search OBIS with a combination of SUBJECT HEADINGS and KEYWORD BOOLEAN.
Note the most common call numbers and browse those sections in the book stacks.
Subjects and Keywords for finding heavily illustrated publications in all subjects. (Subjects and sub-headings can also be used in Keyword searches
|Subject Headings||Sub-headings||More Sub-headings||Keywords|
|Description and Travel||Pictorial works||Photographs||"illustrated works"|
|Interior architecture||In art||Illustrations||"exhibition catalogs"|
Keep track of frequently occurring call numbers and browse those areas of the library. Art library call numbers are arranged by type of art:
N More than one (ex: painting and drawing)
NK Decorative Arts
SB Gardens, landscape architecture
Then subdivided by location:
NA 1010 Austrian architecture
NA 1010 .V5 Austrian architecture in Vienna