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Images for Designers and Art Researchers

Citing Museum Labels

  • The Chicago Manual of Style does not provide standards on how to cite museum labels and signs.  
  • Since museum labels and signs are only temporarily on display, and are not easily accessed by other researchers, they (like Wikipedia) are not very good cited sources for academic research papers.  However, like Wikipedia, they can be an excellent source of background information.  
  • Text from museum labels and signs is often duplicated on the museum's website, a collection catalog, or an exhibition catalog.  Use and cite these sources instead of museum labels and signs for a research paper, when possible.
  • If the text on the label or sign is not duplicated elsewhere, and you must cite it, then you may want to include a photo of the label and the object it identifies (if there is one) in your paper or project.
  • Footnotes/endnotes and bibliographic citations should contain as many elements as applicable:
    • For object labels: Artist, Title, Medium, Date, Accession number.
    • Author of text / Curator of exhibition (if known)
    • Name of exhibition / Name of museum department 
    • Museum name and location
    • Dates of exhibition / Date of visit 


Example of text that cites this museum label:

"Designer Richard Nicoll's slip dress, which some called the 'Tinkerbell Dress,' was created in collaboration with Studio XO, and is made of polyester, acrylic, nylon, LEDs, cotton-wool blend, and a microcontroller unit."

Example of citation:

Object label for Optical Slip Dress, Spring/Summer 2015 by Richard Nicoll and Studio XO.  In exhibition "Items: Is Fashion Modern?" at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY.  Seen on: November 21, 2017.

* Please note that this object is not featured in the exhibition catalog for "Items: Is Fashion Modern?".  Otherwise, the citation would refer to the exhibition catalog and not to the label.

Additional examples of how to cite wall text can be found on the MLA website.