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Matthew Vassar's plan for the college for women that he chartered in 1861 included among its facilities a cabinet for paintings and sculpture to support instruction in art--the first art gallery at an academic institution in the nation. To provide further support for this endeavor, on June 6, 1864 Vassar purchased for the college from the Albany minister and art collector Elias Lyman Magoon a substantial art collection as well as a library of over 1,000 volumes on art and architecture. This foundational library collection has been maintained to support the curriculum of the Department of Art so that today it is one of the truly exceptional college art library collections in the nation. Included are monographs, periodicals, scholarly annuals, exhibition catalogs, and other works related to the art and architectural history of Europe, North America, Asia and Africa. Works in the general book collection are normally allowed to circulate, with some exceptions.
A separate Art Reference Collection located on the Art Library main floor is maintained to facilitate research. Included in this collection are printed library catalogs, handbooks, biographical dictionaries, bibliographies, iconographic resources, and other guides to information in the field. The Art Library also subscribes to numerous electronic reference resources including abstracts, periodical indexes, and image databases. Guides to the use of reference materials can be found under the Research link on this site. Reference books are non-circulating and are housed in AL4 and on the West Wall of the central reading room of the Library.
The Art Library maintains subscriptions to over 200 print periodical titles. Current issues are displayed on the East side of the Entry Level of the Library near the staircase to Stack III. Back issues of titles are bound and interfiled by call number with the general book collection. Periodicals, both loose and bound, are non-circulating. Many periodical titles are also available in full-text electronic form. For a listing of all Art Library periodical titles, including those available electronically in full text, select this link.
The Library subscribes to a wide range of electronic scholarly resources, including abstracts and indexes to art historical literature, image databases, full-text periodical sources, and other documents. For a listing of important electronic reference resources, select this link. The Art Library also maintains a collection of documentary material on CD, available at Main Library Reserve Desk.
The Special Collections Library has a complete archive of artists' books from the Women's Studio Workshop in Rosendale, New York -- the largest producer of hand printed artists' books in the United States. In addition, the Art Library collects artists' books from other sources, including works by Ed Ruscha, Sol Lewitt, John Baldessari, Gorden Matta-Clark, Claes Oldenburg and many others. Art Library artists' books are temporarily being housed in the Special Collections library in the Main Library, where they can be accessed by appointment.
Art-related videos in various formats, including artists' videos, are presently housed in the Main Library Reserve Room, where they may be circulated for a three-day period. Videos may be searched in the online catalogue under the video tab.