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VPHC75 - Artist, Maker, Creator - Doris McCarthy

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Encyclopedia - FAQ

Importance of Background Information

You wouldn’t go on vacation without first finding some information about what the place that you are visiting is like and what it has to offer, right? You wouldn't cook an elaborate meal without checking to see what you need to actually prepare it, would you? Well, the same is true of research! This is where Background Information comes in. Background info can: 

  • Introduces you to the topic that you want to learn and write about and respond to 
  • It helps you decide what you want to focus on 
  • Serves as the foundation that helps you build solid research 

It also: 

  1. It helps you to focus on names, dates, events, organizations, terms, etc., associated with a topic or artist 
  2. It can help you to narrow down or expand your topic 
  3. It can help you find additional information in the form of keywords and bibliographies 
Where can you find background information? 
  • Encyclopedias - there are general and specialized encyclopedias and they are good sources for background information. They often also have bibliographies that point out further sources that you can look at
  • Dictionaries - these can also be specialized or general, and can help you to further understand various important concepts 

Both types of sources can help you find definitions of terms, keywords, can give you ideas about how to start your research. 

How are library encyclopedias different from Wikipedia? 

Online and print encyclopedias from the Library have been checked for accuracy and quality.  Wikipedia hasn't although it can often point you in the direction of quality, scholarly information. 

Finding Background Information about Artists

There are various ways of finding background information about artists. Here are some options: 

Artists websites 

Use these to find:

  • Information on artists or films that are very contemporary
  • links/citations to additional sources about the artist/director/film
  • Canadian topics
  • links to additional materials such as images available through social media, links to materials available through institutions such as museums and galleries 

Museum and Gallery websites

If you know where the works of a particular artist are located or who owns them, you will be able to get additional information about that work as well.  Check the institutions’s website for more detailed information on the artist, or on the work that you are interested in. Museums and galleries will provide the most up to date information on items in their collections, and also provide links to additional information in many cases. 

Academic Resources

Grove Art Online 

Grove Art Online is the online edition of The Dictionary of Art, often referred to as the Grove Dictionary of Art, and part of Oxford Art Online, an internet gateway to online art reference publications of Oxford University Press, which also includes the online version of the Benezit Dictionary of Artists.[1] It is a large encyclopedia of art, previously a 34-volume printed encyclopedia first published by Grove in 1996 and reprinted with minor corrections in 1998. A new edition was published in 2003 by Oxford University Press.

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