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Finding Information On Objects In The Metropolitan Museum of Art – A Quick Guide

Almost all of the Museum’s accessioned objects can be found on the Museum’s website www.metmuseum.org/art/collection

These are recommended steps to help you search for information about objects in the Museum’s permanent collection.

1. Search the object database on the Museum’s website.

  • Go to the Art tab on the home page of the website, and then click on Collection.  Enter the object accession number (or appropriate key words) and click search.  The accession number is a unique number assigned to each object in the Museum’s collection and can be found on the object label or wall text in the galleries.
  • If you do not have the accession number, search by the artist’s last name and/or a keyword from the title of the work (e.g., bruegel harvesters), or keyword (e.g., armoireor a phrase that describes the work (e.g., “art deco” in quotation marks).  Use the options under “Filter” to narrow your results to a particular department, time period, geographical location, object type or artist/culture.
  • The object record will contain basic information about the work as well as an image or multiple imaged if available.   Images can often be enlarged and downloaded
  • There may also be links to the gallery label, a catalogue entry, signature information, provenance, exhibition history, references, essays from the Timeline of Art History, or links to MetPublications (online copies of hundreds of books published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art).
  • Search WATSONLINE or another library catalog to locate the citations found under References. 

2. Search the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History

  • The Timeline of Art History is on the website under the Art tab.  It is worth checking the Timeline for information about your object even if there isn’t a specific link to the Timeline from the object record in Collection online.
  • The Timeline might feature the specific object you are looking for; OR, you can search for information on the time period, artist, culture, form, style or medium of the object and find valuable contextual information, e.g., Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

3. Search MetPublications  

  • MetPublications contains online versions of over 1,500 titles published by the Museum since 1964. They are all full text searchable using the Google books viewer and out of print publications can be downloaded as full text PDFs.
  • MetPublications, unlike WATSONLINE, can be searched using an accession numbers as a keyword.

4. Search the Museum’s Online features 

  • Some objects are documented in podcasts and other media, available through the Online Features link on the website under the Art tab

5. Search Watson Library’s Digital Collections 

  • Watson Library’s Digital Collections contains over 45,000 digitized items including all know publications produced by the Museum from 1870-the 1970s. The full database is keyword searchable, including by accession number.

6. If the object is not on the Museum’s website, or if you need more information than you find on the website, try the following

  • Search the MMA Bulletinand Journal in JSTOR (you need to be in the Museum or have a subscription through your college or university) by the artist’s last name and the exact title of the work, or by keywords from the title or description of the work.
  • If you know that the object was in an exhibition, search for the exhibition catalog in WATSONLINE (http://library.metmuseum.org).  Not every exhibition has a catalog, but most do.
  • Look in relevant MMA collection catalogs that describe the permanent collection (many of the Museum’s objects are discussed in these catalogs).  Nolen Library has many of these catalogs; Watson Library has all of them.
  • Consult the Audio Guide scripts (ask library staff in Nolen).
  • Contact the Central Catalog (central.catalog@ metmuseum.org) to find out if the object may be docu­mented there; you will receive an email response with available information.

ASK A REFERENCE LIBRARIAN FOR HELP! Email the reference desk at

watson.library@metmuseum.org or call 212-650-2225

Even if there is no pub­lished research on a specific object, a great deal can still be learned by research­ing its context.