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Lucy Scribner Library

Theater: Visual Research


Visual Research

Research for set, costume, and lighting design requires that you look at lots of images.
You can find images by browsing through print sources - such as books and magazines - and by searching digital image collections.

Finding Images in Books

You can find useful images by browsing through books.  To locate books in the library, use SearchMore.

One way to find books that contain images is to include the phrases "in art" or "pictorial works" in your search. For example, if you are looking for books with images of London, you could try a search combining the term "London" with the term "pictorial works." 

Make sure to take a look at the subject terms that are used to describe relevant results. 

Subject Headings

Books are arranged on the shelves using the Library of Congress Classification System. This system groups together materials on similar subjects. Knowing the call number range for a particular subject will help you browse the shelves for materials.

If you would like to browse the art and photography books, see the subject headings in the Art subject guide.

These are some other subject headings that may be useful for visual research:

Clothing and dress
Clothing trade

Decoration and ornament
Decorative arts
Material culture
Set designers
Stage lighting
Stage management
Theaters -- Stage-setting and scenery
Theatrical makeup


Finding Images in Magazines

Popular magazines are a great place to look for images.  If the play you are working on takes place in the past, you might browse issues of LIFE or TIME magazines from the period in order to get a feel for the way people dressed, furnishings that were popular, etc.  Even if your play takes place in the contemporary world, you can get design ideas from magazines.

To determine whether we have a particular magazine in the library collection (either in print or online), search for the title in the Journals search box.

To search for articles in magazines and journals, go to the A-Z Databases list or a Subject Guide.

Finding Images in Digital Image Collections

You can find many digital image collections on the Images page on the library website. 

Citing Images

You must always provide a citation for your images, just as you would any other source.

Most citation style manuals will contain information about how to cite images. To access citation information, see Citing & RefWorks: Print and Online Resources.