|1.||Know your search engines.|
After many years of consoldation, there are 4 main search engines today. Google, Yahoo, MSN Live Search and Ask.com. IMO they're more alike than they are different, but if you're doing in-depth searching than you'll want to check more than one.
|2.||Don't add search terms unnecessarily.|
Every term you add to a search must appear on a page for it to come up in the search listings. For example, a search for pablo picasso cubism will exclude any page, not matter how useful, that does not happen to include the word "cubism". Sometimes plurals and minor variations will in fact match, but in general you should be careful nto to make searches unnecessarily strict.
Art, like love, is a universal language. Invaluable web resources may be located anywhere in the world. Be aware that if you add the word "painting" to a search, for example, that relevant pages in French, Spanish, German, Italian and a myriad of other languages will be arbitrarily excluded. Also, many foreign languages have different versions of place names or even people's names. For example, Michelangelo is known as Michel-Ange in France; Raphael is known as Raffaello or Raffaello Santi in Italy; and so on.
Now that you've found a great page in an exotic language, what if you need to read the words in addition to looking at the pretty pictures? Several websites offer machine translation of web pages. This kind of translation is not perfect -- far from it -- but it can usually get you to more than halfway understanding what a page is saying. See the Artportal Homepage for more about two of the better translation tools.
|5. ||Beware Regional Results.|
The flip site of international searching is that country-specific Google sites (e.g. www.google.co.uk) have search results that are skewed towards that specific country. The results are returned in a different order even if you don't explicitly choose to search pages from that country only. Thus if you normally use a regional Google, you may want to do follow-up searches at www.google.com in order to get an unbiased, or at least a differently biased, set of search results.
|6.||Search Exact Phrases.|
One incredibly powerful feature when searching for names in particular is the ability to search on exact phrases. For example, searching on claude monet will return pages containing both the words "claude" and "monet", whereas searching on "claude monet" (in double quotes) will only return pages containing the words "claude monet" together. Note that this kind of search will NOT match variations such as "claude oscar monet" or "monet, claude", so use it with caution.
In some cases, especially when search terms are ambiguous, it can be useful to exclude pages containing certain terms. Put a negative sign directly in front of any word you want to be eliminated from the search results.
The site: operator is an extremely valuable tool that allows you to limit searches to one specific website. For example, adding site:wikipedia.com to a search will cause results to be returned from Wikipedia only. (Less usefully, you can also use this operator to limit searches to .org sites or .edu sites, or to country-specific domains such as .uk)
|9.||Discover the Advanced Search.|
Google, for example, has advanced features that allow you to search one specific country's pages, pages written in one specific language, pages that are filtered for adult content, etc. They also allow you to search for pages first added to the index in a particular time-frame, potentially a very useful feature but in my experience it is not too accurate yet.
|10. ||Recover Missing Pages and Dead Websites.|
The 4 major search engines listed above all have a "cached page" link alongside each search result. This is a snapshot of the page as it appeared when last crawled. This snapshot may be days or weeks old, sometimes even older, but it's usually better to have something than nothing. Also worthy of note is the Internet Archive (a.k.a. the "Wayback Machine"). This archive frequently contains multiple snapshots of a given page, going back many years.