Harvard’s primary collection and resource of global materials for the study of the history of art and architecture and related disciplines.
- Islamic art and architecture
- Asian art and architecture
- Digital images and slides
- Prints and photographs
The Fine Arts Library Reading Room is an open, light-filled space located on the main level of the library. Learn more about the Reading Room.
The Fine Arts Library has a limited number of carrels located in the book stacks. Learn more about applying for a study carrel.
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.
- Special Collections Study Room is available by appointment only to Harvard ID holders and visiting researchers.
- Starting October 4, 2021, all eligible visitors to the Harvard Libraries age 12 or older will be required to present proof of vaccination, along with a photo ID for those age 17 and older, at the Harvard Library Access and Borrowing Office located at Widener Library (HL_accessborrowing@harvard.edu) prior to their scheduled appointment. They will also be responsible for following all additional COVID-19 safety guidelines as listed on the Harvard Library Visitor Access page.
- Note that non-HUID holders will need to register for an account with the Harvard Library Access and Borrowing Office prior to accessing the library.
Schedule a Study Room Appointment
- For the health and safety of our researchers and staff, we ask that you schedule an appointment to visit the Special Collections Study Room using the Appointment Request form.
- Appointments must be made at least 24 hours in advance.
- No walk-in or same day appointments will be available.
- Be sure to also request materials via the instructions below.
Request Materials to View
- Special collections materials can be requested for viewing using the “Request to Scan or Visit” link in the HOLLIS record to connect to HOLLIS Special Request.
- Some requests, especially for materials held offsite, may require two to four business days to process.
- Please note that HOLLIS Special Request does not send automated email confirmations. Feel free to contact us to confirm availability ahead of scheduling your visit.
- Be sure to also schedule a Study Room appointment via the instructions above.
Request Materials to Digitize
- Special collections materials can be requested for digitization using the “Request to Scan or Visit” link in the HOLLIS record to connect to HOLLIS Special Request.
- For course use or reference questions, contact us directly.
- The library may be able to accommodate small classes and sections in the Study Room for hands-on engagement with Special Collections materials.
- Instructors may make a request via the Special Collections and Archives Class Request Tool or contact us directly.
- Virtual course sessions can be arranged for large or small classes as needed.
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, 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.
The Fine Arts Library allows patrons to have coffee in an approved container in the main Reading Room only.
Only water in a tight container with a secure lid is allowed in the stacks and carrels. No beverages are allowed in the Special Collections Study Room. This policy will be subject to change at any time.
- No single use containers with the exception of water.
- Containers must NOT exceed 16 oz, except for water bottles.
- Containers must be fully covered with a tight, resealable lid.
- Coffee is only allowed in the main Reading Room.
- Only water is allowed in the stacks and carrels.
- Beverages are not allowed in the Special Collections Study Room.
- Food is not allowed anywhere in the Fine Arts Library.
- The Fine Arts Library reserves the right to change and amend the policy as needed.
Events & Exhibits
Marcel Broodthaers: The Space of Writing: March 10 - June 5, 2020
Langdon Warner Photographs from the 1924 Dunhuang Expedition: January 2 - March 6, 2020
Picturing the Sultan: Images of Ottoman rulers in the Fine Arts Library’s collections: September 12 - December 20, 2019
New Acquisitions in Dialogue: Palladio: July 7 - September 11, 2019
New Acquisitions Spotlight: Ellen Knudson, Intrusion: June 5 - July 3, 2019
New Acquisitions Spotlight: Richard Tuttle, Early Auden, 1991: May 6 - June 4, 2019
Night Revels of Han Xizai (韩熙载夜宴图):December 18, 2018 - March 15, 2019
The Fine Arts Library is the primary resource for the study of the history of art and architecture and related subjects at Harvard University.
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 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:
- 1978: The Rübel Asiatic Research Collection of the Oriental Department was added to the collection
- 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
- 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.
- 2017-Present: During a renovation of the Sackler building, the Digital Images and Slides Collection moved temporarily into the Lamont Library
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.