Fine Arts Library

The Fine Arts Library is Harvard’s primary research collection for study of the history of art and architecture and related disciplines worldwide.
Today: 9am - 10pm
Special Collections 10am - 5pm
Digital Images and Slides Collection (DISC) By Appointment

Features

Couches / arm chairs Couches / arm chairs
Public computers Public computers
Group tables Group tables
Private desks Private desks
Quiet study areas Quiet study areas
Tech loan Tech loan
Printers Printers
Copiers Copiers
Scanners Scanners
Special collections and archives Special collections and archives

Address

Littauer Center
1805 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
Connect with Fine Arts

Visit

  • The Fine Arts Library is open to all Harvard ID holders and those with a Harvard Library Special Borrower Card.
  • Special Borrower Cards can be obtained by visiting the Privileges Office located in Widener Library.
  • An accessible entrance is available at the back of the Littauer building on ground level. Enter and take the elevator to the first floor and follow signs to the library. 

Collections


Research


Using the Library

Spaces

Study Carrels 

Fine Arts Library has carrels available for reservation.  Learn more.

Special Collections Study Room 

The Fine Arts Library welcomes researchers to our Special Collections Study Room to view historical photographs, rare books, manuscript facsimiles, auction sales catalogs, archival collections, and other materials from our Special Collections, which do not circulate outside of the library.

The Fine Arts Library Special Collections Study Room.
The Fine Arts Library Special Collections Study Room.

Our Special Collections Study Room is not open for general study purposes. However, small classes and sections are welcome to use the Study Room for teaching with Special Collections materials. Please make a request via the Special Collections and Archives Class Request Tool or contact library staff at falibref@fas.harvard.edu directly.

Here are some things to keep in mind for your visit:

  • Handling guidelines must be conscientiously followed in order to preserve library materials for future use. Library staff are always available to provide guidance.
  • Researchers should not remove any items from the Study Room or rearrange any items within a folder or any folders within a box. If material appears to be out of order, please notify library staff.
  • If you need help in handling Special Collections materials, or if you have any questions about them, please don't hesitate to ask the library staff, who are always willing to provide assistance and suggestions to assist your research.
  • Researchers are welcome to bring pencils, laptops, tablets, phones (in silent mode), digital cameras, and other materials to assist in their research.
  • Researchers may bring personal books or papers into the Reading Room only if these items are necessary for their immediate research.
  •  All other materials and personal property not essential for research -- including coats, bags, backpacks, computer cases, and other belongings -- must be stored in the lockers provided.
  • We offer a number of supplies that may help you in your research, including: pencils, note taking paper, magnifying glasses, tape measures and rulers, a small light box, a desktop computer, and headphones.
  • The library does not permit the use of pens, tripods, scanners, camera flashes, special lighting, or any other equipment that rests directly on collection material or may pose a risk of damage.
  • Researchers are welcome to photograph most materials. Some collections may be subject to donor stipulations that limit or prohibit photography. Researchers are asked not to take pictures of the Study Room itself, other patrons, or library staff. 
  • In order to preserve relative quiet for our researchers, we ask laptop computer and digital camera users to turn off all audible features, if possible.

Reading Room

The Fine Arts Library Reading Room is an open, light-filled space located on the main level of the library. Learn more.


Events & Exhibits


History

The Fine Arts Library is the primary resource for the study of the history of art and architecture and related subjects at Harvard University.

Fogg Art Museum interior circa 1925
Fogg Art Museum interior circa 1925
Fine Arts Library

Since the founding of the Fogg Art Museum in 1895, the library has served the needs of teaching faculty, art museum staff, undergraduate and graduate students, researchers, and historians.

The history of the library is intertwined with Harvard's role in the development of academic programs in art and architectural history and museum studies. With the 1874 appointment of Charles Eliot Norton, Harvard became the first university in the United States to institute a professorship in art history.

In 1927, Harvard dedicated a new Fogg Museum building, which was designed to display art in a setting together with classrooms, conservation labs, painting studios, and a research library.

In 1962, Widener Library’s arts-related holdings were transferred to an expanded library space within the Fogg Museum. At this time, the Fogg Museum Library became a part of the Harvard College Library and was given its current name, the Fine Arts Library.

The Fine Arts Library reading room circa 1951.
The Fine Arts Library reading room circa 1951.
Fine Arts Library

The newly combined collection formed one of the largest art research collections in the United States, serving as a model for other institutions for building their art libraries.

Other notable milestones for the Fine Arts Library include:

  • 1979: The library became one of two documentation centers of the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture, located at both Harvard and MIT
  • 1991: The library expanded into the Werner Otto Hall addition on the east side of the Fogg Museum building
Fine Arts Library Reading Room in 1982
Fine Arts Library Reading Room in 1982.
Fine Arts Library
  • 1999: Harvard’s VIA (Visual Information Access) public image catalog was launched, and the Fine Arts Library began providing digital images to faculty for teaching
  • 2009: During an extensive renovation of the Fogg Museum building, the Fine Arts Library moved to two locations: Littauer Center for the general and special collections and the Sackler building for the Digital Images and Slides Collection.

Since its beginnings as a museum library more than 120 years ago, the Fine Arts Library has developed its collections and services for a growing community of users in fields across the academic spectrum.