Citing Museum Objects

You found a really awesome object in a museum that you want to include in your documentation. That’s amazing! Good for you, finding that thing!

It doesn’t matter if it is an object, a painting, a sculpture, or some other piece of art – there is a way to cite it. I’m going to be looking at APA in this post, since it’s my citation method of preference (only I push my parentheticals into footnotes because I prefer them). I encourage you to look at your citation method of choice to see how to cite museum (or art) objects. If you run into problems, leave a comment on this post and I’ll do my best to help, or join us over on Cite Your Sh*t.

The basic layout for your citation is this:

Artist. (Date). Name of object. [What it is]. Name of Museum, Location. Retrieved from: link

For the artist, use their surname and first initial, separated by a comma. Here’s an example.

Limosin, L. (1556). Henri d’Albret (1503-55), King of Navarre. [Enamel on copper]. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Retrieved from: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/209063

If a piece of art (or an object) does not have a listed author, use this format: (followed by an example)

Name of object. (Date). [What it is]. Name of Museum, Location. Retrieved from: link

The Lewis Chessmen. (c. 1150-1175). [Chess pieces carved from walrus ivory]. British Museum, London. Retrieved from: https://research.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=6211&partId=1&object=23520

As with all citations, the key is to give your reader enough information that they can find this. The URL is very important if you can point to the piece online, but if you’re taking your own pictures in a museum, this information is also important. I struggle with images taken at Chinese museums posted online that have no corroborating information regarding where they are from, let alone where they are currently housed.

For information on a label, use this format for your citation:

Label title [Museum exhibit label]. (n.d.). Name of Museum. City, State.

Since we’re talking about writing for the SCA, I’d say it’s reasonable to mention when you visited, or at least what exhibit the item was part of. This will take into account traveling exhibitions, which are often listed with their dates on a museum’s website long after they’ve left.

Happy documenting!

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