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 ArtLibraries.net will reveal thousands of exhibition catalogs.
Yarnall, James L. and William H. Gerdts, Comp. The National Museum of American Art's Index to American Art Exhibition Catalogues: from the Beginning through the 1876 Centennial Year. 6v. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1986. Table of Contents: v. 1. Exhibition title index, by location. Artist index, A-C; v. 2 Artist index, D-G; v.3 Artist index, H-L; v.4 Artist index, M-R; v.5 Artist index, S-Z; v. 6. Artist index, unidentified. Owner index. Subject index.
Royal Academy of Arts Exhibition Catalogues. Browse through the Summer Exhibition catalogs 1769-present and Winter Exhibition catalogs 1870-1939. Each individual catalogue has been scanned along with thumbnail images of some of the artworks that were exhibited in the exhibition. Each catalogue can be searched by artists, titles and lenders or searching across multiple catalogues is available. Use of the search box on the RA Collections homepage searches all catalogues plus the Royal Academy's collection. If only a search within multiple catalogues is wanted, there is a search exhibition catalogues option.
Cowdrey, Mary Bartlett. American Academy of Fine Arts and American Art-Union, 1816-1852. 2 v. New York: New York Historical Society, 1953. (Collections of the New York Historical Society for the year 1943-1944) Table of Contents: I. Introduction. II. Exhibition record.
The Annual Exhibition Record of the Art Institute of Chicago, 1888-1950. Ed by Peter Hastings Falk. Madison, CT: Sound View Press, 1990.
The Boston Athenaeum Art Exhibition Index, 1827-1874. Comp. & Ed. by Robert F. Perkins, Jr. & William J. Gavin III. Boston: The Library of the Boston Athenaeum, 1980.
Marlor, Clark S. A History of the Brooklyn Art Association with an Index of Exhibitions. New York: J. F. Carr .
Record of the Carnegie Institute's International Exhibitions, 1896-1996. by Peter Hastings Falk. Madison, CT: Sound View Press, 1998.
The Biennial Exhibition Record of the Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1907-1967. Ed. by Peter H. Falk. Madison, CT: Sound View Press, 1991.
The Annual Exhibition Record of the National Academy of Design, 1901-1950. Ed. by Peter Hastings Falk. Madison, CT: Sound View Press, 1990.
Annual Exhibition Record of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Ed. by Peter Hastings Falk. Madison, CT: Sound View Press, 1988-. 3v.
Katlan, Alexander W. Salmagundi Club Painting Exhibition Records 1889 to 1939: A Guide to The Annual Exhibition of Oil Paintings and The Annual Exhibition and Auction Sale of Pictures. New York: 2008.
Katlan, Alexander W. Salmagundi Club Painting Exhibition Records 1940-1951 and Water Color Exhibition Records 1900-1951. New York: 2009.
Halteman, Ellen. Exhibition record of the San Francisco Art Association, 1872-1915, Mechanics’ Institute, 1857-1899, California State Agricultural Society, 1856-1902. Los Angeles: Dustin Publications, 2000.
The Annual & Biennial Exhibition Record of the Whitney Museum of American Art, 1918-1989. Ed. by Peter Hastings Falk. Madison, CT: Sound View Press, 1991.
Graves, Algernon. A Dictionary of Artists Who Have Exhibited Works in the Principal London Exhibitions from 1760 to 1893. 3rd ed. Bath [Eng.]: Kingsmead Reprints [1969, c1901, 1973 printing].
Graves, Algernon. The Royal Academy of Arts: a Complete Dictionary of Contributors and their Work from its Foundation in 1769 to 1904. 4v. East Ardsley, Eng.: S.R. Publishers; Bath: Kingsmead Reprints, 1970.
Royal Academy exhibitors, 1905-1970: a Dictionary of Artists and their Work in the Summer Exhibitions of the Royal Academy of Arts. 3v. Calne, Wiltshire, England: Hilmarton Manor Press, 1985-.
Graves, Algernon. The Society of Artists of Great Britain, 1760-1791, the Free Society of Artists, 1761-1783: a Complete Dictionary of Contributors and their Work from the Foundation of the Societies to 1791. Bath: Kingsmead Reprints, 1969.
McMann, Evelyn de R. Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, formerly Art Association of Montreal: Spring Exhibitions 1880-1970. Toronto; Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, c1988.
McMann, Evelyn de R. Royal Canadian Academy of Arts/Academie Royale des Arts du Canada Exhibitions and Members, 1880-1979. Toronto; Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, c1981.
Contemporary Latin American Artists: Exhibitions at the Organization of American States 1941-1964. Ed. by Annick Sanjurjo. Lanham, Md. : Scarecrow Press, 1997.
Contemporary Latin American Artists Exhibitions at the Organization of American States 1965-1985. Ed. by Annick Sanjurjo. Metuchen: Scarecrow, 1993.
Wilson, Raymond L. Index of American Print Exhibitions, 1882-1940. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1988.