Fine Arts Library

Collections Overview


Founded in 1895 as a department of the Fogg Art Museum, The Fine Arts Library is among the leading libraries in the world for the study of art, architecture, and visual culture from antiquity to the present. Our collections include extensive textual and visual documentation about individual paintings, prints, drawings, sculpture, architecture and decorative arts; the history of collecting and esthetics; art museums; twentieth-century art movements including video and performance art; and art conservation. In addition to outstanding collections of books, periodicals, exhibition catalogs, pamphlets, and auction catalogs, the Library’s special collections contain over two million photographs, prints, postcards, albums, film stills, posters, rubbings, and drawings. Subject strengths in special collections include visual images relating to the Middle East and the Islamic World, East Asia, Europe, and the Americas that depict people, occupations, politics, everyday life, recreation, sports, religion, travel, celebrations, cities, buildings, sites, monuments, gravestones, warfare and the effects of war on cultural heritage. 

While our book and periodical collections are represented individually in HOLLIS, only a fraction of our images are included.  Many more special collections appear there only at the collection level. Selected images from our Special Visual Collections and a significant portion of our art and architecture teaching images may also be found in the HOLLIS Images catalog as well as HOLLIS.

Materials for the study of art, architecture, archeology, film, and visual studies may also be found in other Harvard libraries. Medieval manuscripts, rare illustrated books, drawings, prints, and photographs are in the collection of Houghton Library. Contemporary architecture and design are collected by the Frances Loeb Library of the Graduate School of Design. The primary collection of African, Native American, pre-Columbian, Oceanic, and other ethnographic materials is in the Tozzer Library. The Harvard Film Archive houses original films in all formats, film posters, and a large collection of film stills. Publications related to film history, aesthetics, and classical archeology are primarily found in Widener Library.


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