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The Fine Arts Collection

Content section: 

Contact: Lynn Cunningham

Scope of Collection

The Fine Arts Collections are primarily housed in two locations, the Art History/Classics Library and Main (Gardner) Stacks in the Doe Library. Other libraries that complement this Collection include Environmental Design, Anthropology, East Asian, South/Southeast Asia, Bancroft, Media Resources Center, Doe/Moffitt.

The Fine Arts Collections have been built over the years to specifically support the academic and research programs in History of Art and Art Practice as well as the Berkeley Art Museum. Numerous other students and faculty in related disciplines such as classical studies, visual culture, literature, studio art, dramatic arts, film studies, architecture, history, cultural studies, archaeology, museum studies, material culture, new media, area studies, and philosophy actively use this collection. The collection size is well over 200,000 volumes. If all of the Fine Arts Collections were consolidated into one space, it would represent one of the largest subject libraries on the Berkeley campus, and one of the most prominent art collections west of the Mississippi River.


The strengths of the Fine Arts collections reflect faculty specializations: Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance, Northern and Southern Baroque, 18th and 19th century Europe and America, Modern, Contemporary, Asian, India and Southeast Asia, China and Japan. Core journals for the 19th century are very comprehensive and holdings more extensive than that of the Stanford Art & Architecture Library. Other strengths are its exhibition catalog collection, catalogue raisonnés for numerous artists, microfiche collections, videos (held in MRC) and digital resources, such as ARTstor and various other online reference sources and periodical indices.

The Fine Arts are collected at a comprehensive research level within the Library of Congress Classifications of N, NB, NC, ND, NE covering all languages (except CJK) all geographic locations and all periods. AM (Museums) is collected selectively, with emphasis on English language materials published in the U.S. and UK. Architecture (NA) is collected selectively due to the strengths of the Environmental Design Library collection and is primarily focused on Gothic, Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque. Decorative Arts (NK) was once collected by Environmental Design in support of its Decorative Arts program—eliminated in the early 1970s. Currently, NK is collected selectively by the Fine Arts Librarian. TR, artistic photography, has numerous gaps for titles published during the period 1988-2000 due to funding. However, this situation has been corrected somewhat as a result of recent donations of photography book collections. A small endowment established for photography will help with future acquisitions. Textile design, costume history and fashion have gained popularity and are studied by several disciplines across campus, but current funding does not support comprehensive collecting in these areas. Graphic design, commercial art and contemporary ceramics are not collected. The Anthropology Library collects and houses art-related titles for anthropology and archaeology.

Special Collections

Art History/Classics houses one of the most comprehensive collections of core art periodicals for the 19th and 20th centuries. The AH/C Rare Book Collection is housed in three locations—AH/C, Room 308F; Medium Rare, Doe Library, Room 65; NRLF Special Collections. Important microfiche collections are housed in AH/C. The East Asian Library houses a special collection of Chinese/Japanese/Korean materials related to art history and it is considered one of the strongest in the Western world. The Environmental Design Library houses a collection of artists’ books in its Rare Collection. The Bancroft Library has numerous archives for California artists, original medieval manuscripts, artists' books and a pictorial collection of 8 million items in a variety of media, documenting and illustrating the history of California and the American West. The Berkeley Art Museum houses artists' archives and a substantial collection of artists' books.

Primary Languages and Formats

Emphasis is placed on English and Western European languages, however materials are collected in all languages except Chinese, Japanese and Korean (covered by the East Asian Library). Formats include books, monographs, facsimilies, exhibition catalogs, periodicals, digital resources, DVDs, videotapes (housed in Media Resources Center), and microforms.