Exhibition catalogs are a permanent record for a temporary event. Originally, the catalogs contained a simple list of the works included in the exhibition--usually indicating the artist's name, the name of the work, and the date it was made. These lists were distributed to viewers who attended the exhibition. Eventually more information was added such as images, scholarly essays, chronologies, biographies of the artists, individual analysis of the work, bibliographies. As the catalogs expanded, they began to look more like books and to be distributed as important publications. Because books and catalogs often appear the same, it is important to keep in mind the original purpose of the catalog--to document an exhibition of a certain set of artworks that were assembled for a limited time in a specific location.
Exhibition catalogs are usually treated by libraries like other publications and the records for them can be found in library catalogs by doing a subject or title or keyword search. Searching WorldCat, the British Library catalog, the Bibliotheque Nationale de France catalog, as well as specialized catalogs such as Art Discovery will reveal thousands of exhibition catalogs.