Background Information gives you an introduction to a topic, issue, or person. It's what you're looking for when you look up "Ancient Greece" in an encyclopedia. Knowing a little bit about something you are researching helps you focus in on what's really interesting to you!
So...get a few facts, details, names and terms about your topic...then decide in what direction your curiosity wil take you.
Find overviews, significant names in the field, citations to basic sources in the field, encyclopedias are a good place to start.
In addition to Wikipedia (which covers all topics, but can be uneven), find specific information in subject encyclopedias online.
These are two major visual art encyclopedias in the Reference Room (2nd level) of Feinberg Library
Dictionary of Art (34 vols.) Ref. N31 .D5 1996
Encyclopedia of 20th century photography (3 vols) Ref. TR642 .E5 2004
Encyclopedia Britannica Online
Online version of the Encyclopedia Britannica and Merriam-Webster Dictionary & Thesaurus
Virtual Reference Library
A collection of encyclopedias, almanacs, and specialized reference sources for multidisciplinary research
Composed of high-quality articles from the Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition
CREDO Reference Collection [Link to overview and features ]
Contains over 2 million entries from reference books in all major subjects, 65,000+ images (art, diagrams, maps, and photos), and over 93,000 audio pronunciation files.