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The Bibliography of the History of Art

What is the BHA?

April 18, 2000

One of the most powerful tools at the art historian's disposal, The Bibliography of the History of Art (BHA) is the world's most extensive abstracting and indexing service for current literature on the history of art. It surveys the visual arts in Europe and the Americas from late antiquity to the present, enabling researchers to access more than 2,500 periodicals published in 45 languages, as well as books, exhibition and dealer's catalogs, conference proceedings, and bibliographies. In total, the BHA contains more than 200,000 bibliographic records, with more than 24,000 records added annually.

The BHA began at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in 1972 and was adopted in 1981 by the J. Paul Getty Trust. In 1985, the program was merged with a similar service of the French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) and its Institut de l'Information Scientifique et Technique (INIST); since then the BHA has been a collaborative program of the Getty and CNRS. The American editorial office of the BHA is currently located at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts, and will be moving to the Getty Center in Los Angeles by December 2000. The BHA's European office is located in Paris.

The BHA is one of a number of important research databases offered by the Research Library of the Getty Research Institute, along with the Provenance Index, the Avery Index, and other reference tools. Most of these resources are now available to users directly via the Internet, as well as on CD-Rom. Print editions of back issues are also available, although print editions are being phased out and will no longer be produced after the year 2000.

As part of the Getty Research Institute, the Research Library is a vital resource for scholars, college and university faculty, graduate students, curators, and independent researchers. The Research Library documents the history of world art from prehistory to the present, with its greatest strength currently in European art. The library includes over 800,000 books, serials, and auction catalogs relevant to the history of art and architecture and related fields in the humanities, as well as two million study photographs. Holdings in Special Collections include manuscripts, archives, rare books, prints, and photographs, architectural drawings and models, and study photographs. IRIS, the online catalog of the Research Library, is accessible on the Getty's Web site (

History of the BHA

The BHA's origins date from 1972 when the Clark Art Institute became the headquarters of the International Repertory of the Literature of Art (RILA), under the direction of then-Clark librarian Michael Rinehart. RILA was founded with the aid of grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Kress Foundation, and the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation. With additional support from the College Art Association, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, RILA soon achieved widespread international recognition. In 1981, the J. Paul Getty Trust assumed support of RILA.

In 1985, the Getty and the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) agreed to merge RILA with the CNRS abstracting and indexing service, Répertoire d'Art et d'Archéologie (RAA), combining the two into a single, comprehensive art historical index that would eliminate duplication and double the coverage of existing resources. Responsibility for the new bibliography was given to a managing committee and the directors of the two predecessor bibliographies.

From this joint venture between the Getty and the CNRS, the first volume of the BHA was published in 1991. Today the database contains 216,000 bibliographic records supported by bilingual authority files of 190,000 records. (A typical BHA record consists of a bibliographic description conforming to international and national cataloguing codes; an abstract, which may be in French or English depending on the source of the record; and vocabulary-controlled subject indexing in French and English.) These records reflect the activity of published art historical scholarship on post-classical Western art in all media and document types over the last decade.


BHA is available online from three sources. For further information contact: The Research Library Group at (800) 537-7546 or or; The Dialog Corporation at (800) 334-2564 or; or Questel-Orbit at (800) 424-9600 or

The quarterly BHA CD-Rom-for use with NT, Windows 3.1, or Windows 95-provides instant access to more than 175,000 records. The software application runs in English or French; subject indexing is bilingual. The BHA CD-Rom, along with back issues of RILA and RAA, are available through the Research Library Group-online at or by calling (800) 537-7546-as well as through Getty Trust Publications, online at or by calling (800) 223-3431.

Print Edition
The print edition of the BHA has been an annual publication that includes abstracts in either French or English with a complete index in both languages. The print edition is currently being phased out. Volume 9, due to be published in fall 2000, is expected to be the last print edition. For more information, contact Getty Trust Publications, online at or by calling (800) 223-3431.

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About the Getty:

The J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic institution devoted to the visual arts that features the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Foundation, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and the Getty Research Institute. The J. Paul Getty Trust and Getty programs serve a varied audience from two locations: the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Malibu.

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