Gale Virtual Reference Library (GVRL) is a database of encyclopedias, almanacs, and specialized reference sources for multidisciplinary research. This is a good place to start to get background information about the social issue.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Heilbrunn Timeline is a chronological, geographical, and thematic exploration of the history of art from around the world. Contains overviews, key events, maps, works of art, and thematic essays.
International Encyclopedia of Social and Behavioral SciencesThis online Encyclopedia offers a source of social and behavioral sciences reference material that is broader and deeper than any other. It comprises over 3,900 articles, commissioned by 71 Section Editors, and includes 90,000 bibliographic references as well as comprehensive name and subject indexes.
Encyclopedia of World CulturesThis reference set lists and describes more than 1,500 global cultures. Based on research of social scientists, it is the source for historical, social, political, economic, linguistic, religious, and other information on virtually every existing culture.
For background information about art of the culture or time period: