Searching for Exhibition Catalogs

How does one search for exhibition catalogs and books on exhibitions?

In the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) there is the subject heading “Exhibitions.” It is used for works about exhibitions and can be subdivided geographically for exhibitions in a particular place. This term is used instead of “Exhibits; Expositions;  Industrial arts—Exhibitions; Industrial exhibitions;  International exhibitions;  Technology—Exhibitions; and World’s fairs.” For example:

            Exhibitions – Lebanon

This would be a book about exhibitions in Lebanon. The subject matter of the exhibitions could be anything (i.e. petroglyphs, fauna, etc.). In other words, the Lebanon is not the subject of an exhibition. It is simply where the exhibitions took place. 

The narrower terms are:

            Agricultural exhibitions

            Art – Exhibition techniques

            Displays in education

            Exhibit booths

            Flower shows

            Library exhibits

            Livestock exhibitions

            Museum exhibits



            Trade shows

            Traveling exhibitions

            Zoo exhibits

Other than “Art—Exhibition techniques” and “Displays in education,” the others can all be subdivided geographically.           

So how does one assign subject headings to material that is an exhibition catalog on a particular subject? In the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) there is a subdivision “Exhibitions.” It is used in place of “Exhibit catalogs; Exhibition catalogs; and/or Exhibitions – Catalogs.” In other words the word “catalog” is not used in this subdivision, even when the book is an exhibition catalog. 

According to LCSH “Exhibitions” is used “as a form subdivision under subjects for catalogs of exhibitions on those subjects.” It is used “as a topical subdivision under subjects for works about exhibitions on those subjects.” In LCSH, form subdivisions (MARC subfield v) are used to describe what the material is; while topical subdivisions (MARC subfield x) are used to describe what the material is about.

For example:

            Navajo baskets |v Exhibitions

–          This is a book that is a catalog of an exhibition on Navajo baskets

Navajo baskets |x Exhibitions

–          This is a book that is about various exhibitions on Navajo baskets           

In many public catalogs these subject headings are displayed as:

            Navajo baskets – Exhibitions

            Peabody Museum Southeastern Utah Expedition (1931-1933) – Exhibitions

            Cubans – Exhibitions

            Stonehenge World Heritage Site (England) – Exhibitions 

It is impossible to tell only from the subject heading if this is a book about exhibitions or an exhibition catalog. However some library catalogs can make the distinction and list the “genre/form” subject headings and/or subdivisions separately, or allow the user to parse their searches using certain “form” subdivisions. 

Finally, the subdivision “Exhibitions” is also used as a topical subdivision “under headings for types of institutions for works on exhibition techniques and methodology in those institutions.”


            Ethnological museums and collections – Exhibitions

            Anthropological museums and collections — Exhibitions

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