chao chen, research librarianChao Chen, Research Librarian; Home
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Tisch Library, Tufts University

The American Built Environment

Research Sources & Tips
related page: Boston: Architecture & Urbanism







Definitions & Overviews; Images; Surveys

Reserves and Books

Journal Articles and Popular Press

Writing and Citing Sources

I. Background Information

Definitions, Overviews and Biographies


Surveys, Textbooks and Readers


Archipedia (Society of Architectural Historians)

Society of Architectural Historians: Digital Resources
SAH Resources, Preservation Resources, Image Collections, Regional Architecture, and Full Text Resource ( e.g. classic works like "Craftsman Homes" from 1909 and William Halfpenny's "Useful Architecture" from 1760.)

Oxford Art Online (Grove Dictionary of Art)

The Oxford Companion to Architecture

Dictionary of Architecture & Construction / edited by Cyril M. Harris.


Time-saver Standards for Urban Design / editors, Donald Watson, Alan Plattus, Robert G. Shibley.

Building Types Study (in Architectural Record)

American Institute of Architects: Practicing Architecture

American Institute of Architects: Blueprint for America Initiatives

Atlas of Urban Expansion

Digital Sanborn Maps of MA 1867-1971 (through Someville Public Library)
Sanborn maps chart the growth and development of more than 12,000 American towns and cities. They are large-scale plans of a city or town, drawn at a scale of 50 feet to an inch and were created to assist fire insurance companies as they assessed the risk associated with insuring a particular property. The maps list street blocks and building numbers.

Historic American Buildings Survey

Planning Maps of Midwestern Cities in the 1920s and 1930s

Urban Land Institute




SAHARA Project by the Society of Architectural Historians in ARTStor)

Artifact (Tufts University)

Great Buildings Collection (Architecture Week)

City of Chicago Landmarks

Ryerson & Burnham Archives Archival Image Collection
This collection brings together over 4,500 images created by the Chicago Architectural Sketch Club and is remarkable in the way it documents the city's growth (vertical and otherwise) over the past century or so.


Landmarks Illinois

American Landscape and Architectural Design, 1850-1920

A Digital Archive of American Architecture


Search for Books with images at Tisch

(architect* or building*) and united states and pictorial works

monuments and pictorial works

architect* and photo*

architect* and exhibition*


American Masterworks: Houses of the 20th and 21st.
Oversize: NA7208 .F67 2008

USA: Modern Architectures in History.
Oversize: NA712.5.M63 W75 2008

Writing Urbanism: a Design Reader / edited by Douglas Kelbaugh and Kit Krankel McCullough.
Oversize: NA9105 .W75 2008

The Colonial Revival House.
Oversize. NA7207 .W57 2004

All American: Innovation in American Architecture.
Oversize: NA712 .C35 2002

Architecture in the United States, 1800-1850.
Oversize: NA710 .M39 2002


The Architecture Reader: Essential Writings from Vitruvius to the Present / edited by A. Krista Sykes.


II. Reserves and Books

A. Use Library Catalogs for Reserves and Books

B. Sample Searches:

(note the search pattern; modify to your own needs)

1. Course Reserves


2. Tufts Libraries Catalog

3. WorldCat (beyond Tufts)


Path of Discovery in the Catalog

1. Find a title/author (assigned readings/Course Reserves);

2. Note the descriptive language of the Catalog record.

3. Use that language in further searches


e.g. Click on subject/author in the record to see further results and related topics.


Author Carter, Thomas, 1949-
Title Invitation to vernacular architecture: a guide to the study of ordinary buildings and landscapes.
Publisher Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, c2005.
Subject Vernacular architecture -- United States.
Regionalism in architecture -- United States.
Architecture and society -- United States.

1. Specific Buildings:

castle and smithsonian (variations of a name)

"john hancock" and (center or tower)

2. Architects

Sullivan, Louis, (search by last name)

McKim, Mead and White

3. in the contexts of building types/Styles/Periods:

Architecture domestic


Historic buildings

church architecture

Public architecture

sustainable architecture

Architecture, Gothic



4. related Topics/ Issues:

"united states" and revival and architecture
(e.g., style revivals)

"united states" and urban* and architect*

"united states" and suburb* and architect*

*architect* searches for architect, architecture, etc.


5. Plans, Sections and Elevations

architectural drawing and united states

architectural drawing and wright

architecture details and (modern or 19th century)

architectural rendering

architecture designs and plans and (modern or 20th century)



III. Journal Articles and Popular Press

A. Subject Databases for Journal Articles

B. Popular Press:

C. Finding Full Text


1. and 2. Two favorite collections of core journals of all disciplines.


Project Muse


3. Avery Index to Architectural Periodicals (the principal database)


4. Combinations of Databases; search across groups of databases or search each separately:

Academic Search Premier, America: History & Life, Art Full Text, Art Index Retrospective (1929 - 1984), Environment Complete, Readers' Guide Retrospective: 1890-1982 and Women's Studies International

Limit Your Results


5. When use GoogleScholar, set your Library Links to access Tufts full texts.



Search tips:

1. Variety of Keywords to cover all aspects

Search with a whole range of keywords: the building, its type, its locale, the city or the country, its period or style; its client/patron, its materials, its setting/site, the architect and his/her theory and ideals, etc.


2. Learn the Language of the Source

In Avery citations on the fairly recent project "the Big Dig House in Lexington, Massachusetts" you will find such subject terms as "Adaptive reuse", "Construction and demolition debris"

The search on the "Wellesley College Library" in Avery finds few articles on the building itself at this point. However, a search on the architect discovers articles on their past and related works University and College Libraries. You place your specific question in a larger context--the study of a type of buildings.



Boston Globe  1980 - present


LexisNexis Academic



Factiva (more international coverage)


Boston Globe (1872-1982)


New York Times Online Archive
(1851 - 3 years before current date)


American Periodicals (1740 - 1940)




     Some of the oldest continuously published magazines in America, including American Spectator, Commentary, Commonweal, Dissent, Harpers Magazine, NACLA, The Nation, The National Review, The New Republic, New York Review, and The New Yorker.

1. Click on the findIt@tufts button button in your search results screen to a window of three sequential options:

a. link to the digital full text when available;

b. link to a Library Catalog search for the print journal;

c. link to ILliad for requesting the article when the above two options are negative.

2. Search for a journal directly here:

a. Tufts Library Catalog (including e-journals)

b. Electronic journals list

c. Use ILliad to request your article, if Tufts does not have your journal.


IV. Writing and Citing

Writing Help

Citing Sources


The craft of research / Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M. Williams.


Tufts Academic Resources Center -- Writing Tutors



Chicago Style Manual

MLA Style


An example of citing HABS-HAER Reports (Historical American Building Surverys-Historic American Engineering Record) in MLA Style:

Hnedak, John D. "The Academy Chapel (Cathedral of the Navy), United States Naval

Academy, Annapolis, Anne Arundel County, Maryland (Photographs, Historical and Descriptive Data)". Historic American Buildings Survey Report  (HABS No. MD-329-1). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2013.


1. n.d. means “no date”

2. The author as identified in the last paragraph of the last page of the document.

Also see the example by National Park Service,

HABS-HAER Report: 
Eaton, Sarah. “Pan American Airways System Terminal Building, 3500 Pan American Drive, Miami, FL,” Historic American Buildings Survey Report (HABS No. FL-36). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 1981.