April 13, 2020

Art & Architecture E-Books in the Time of COVID-19

by Courtney Baron
Director, Art Library, University of Louisville

The COVID-19 outbreak in March 2020 led to the rapid movement of higher education to online formats and the closure of academic libraries across the globe. Faculty and librarians specializing in art, architecture, and design disciplines had to rethink how to deliver instruction and support students in a remote environment. Since art and design research still heavily relies on print materials, the closing of art research collections meant faculty and students lost access to many key library resources. The ARLIS/NA listservs have been abuzz with questions, resources, and words of support and encouragement during this difficult time. Librarians like myself have been scrambling to find electronic resources and digital alternatives as quickly and inexpensively as possible. Here’s a compilation of the free database trials plus open access or temporarily available art, architecture, and design e-books.

Yale University Press’ A&AePortal database provides access to important art and art history scholarly books from some of the world’s finest publishers and museums such as Art Institute of Chicago, Princeton, and Yale University Press. They are offering an extended free trial to institutions and the process to sign up is easy. This product will temporarily help libraries fill in the gaps of their electronic book collections to help students find sources for their research papers.

A&AE Portal’s Interface.


RedShelf is offering free electronic textbooks to students whose institutions are impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Sign up using your institutional email. The e-books can be borrowed until May 25. The following texts are a sample of what’s available:

Stokstad’s Art: A Brief History
Gardner’s Art Through the Ages
Practices of Looking
Culture of Design
Art History: The Basics
Ways of Seeing


VitalSource is also offering free electronic textbooks to students at the University of Louisville. Sign up using your institutional email. The e-books can be borrowed until May 25. The following texts are a sample of what’s available:

Stokstad’s Art: A Brief History
Art of Mesopotamia
Asian Art
Contemporary Art
Digital Art
Greek Art and Archaeology
History of Modern Art
Janson’s History of Art
Medieval Art
Roman Art
Roman Art & Archaeology
The Art of Writing About Art
What is “Islamic Art”?
Women Artists

British Museum Publications
Museum research catalogues, publications, and journals written by staff and external experts.

Canadian Online Art Book Project
Founded in 2013, the Canadian Online Art Book Project is a growing digital library of books–all original works commissioned by the Art Canada Institute–by the country’s leading art experts on artists who have made a critical contribution to the evolution of the nation’s art history.

Fundacion Juan March (Madrid)
The Fundación Juan March presents to the public its on-line gateway to the complete content of each of the 205 catalogues accompanying the exhibitions held at its three venues since 1973, in Madrid, Cuenca (the Museo de Arte Abstracto Español) and Palma de Mallorca (the Museu Fundación Juan March).

Getty Publications Virtual Library
More than 300 Getty publications to download and read for free.

Getty Research Portal
A free online search platform providing worldwide access to an extensive collection of digitized art history texts from a range of institutions. This multilingual and multicultural union catalog affords art historians and other researchers the ability to search and download complete digital copies of publications devoted to art, architecture, material culture, and related fields.

Guggenheim Museum Publications
Guggenheim Museum publications provided by the Internet Archive.

Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele
by Thomas M. Messer, Johannes Dobai, and Alessandra Comini
From Guggenheim Museum Publications via the Internet Archive

HathiTrust Digital Library
A partnership of academic and research institutions, offering a collection of millions of titles digitized from libraries around the world.

Heritage Preservation (World Monuments Fund)
Extensive publications on heritage preservation issues.

Internet Archive Open Library
A free digital library with over 45,000 art titles.

Latsis Foundation E-Library
Publications of cultural, artistic and historical interest to researchers in Greek art and archaeology.

Metropolitan Museum of Art Publications
MetPublications is a portal to The Met’s comprehensive publishing program with over 1,500 titles, including books, online publications, and Bulletins and Journals from the last five decades.

MoMA Exhibitions
Exhibitions from MoMA’s founding in 1929 to the present.

Machine Art exhibition at MoMA, March 6 to April 30, 1934.
MoMA Exhibitions

National Gallery of Art Publications
The National Gallery of Art’s publishing program balances an allegiance to the art and craft of the printed book with a commitment to the utility and accessibility of digital and online formats.

OSCI Museum Catalogues
The Getty’s Online Scholarly Catalogue Initiative provides access to catalogues from the Art Institute of Chicago; Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA); National Gallery of Art (NGA); San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA); Seattle Art Museum; Tate; Walker Art Center; and the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

Smithsonian Books Online
The Smithsonian Libraries’ online books.

Video Art & Artists Essays
PDFs of essays commissioned by the Video Data Bank on the subject of video art and artists, as well as a range of essays about individual artists’ work.

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