Oxford's research collections in support of the study of art and architecture at Oxford are rich, diverse and in many cases extraordinarily deep. Print and electronic materials are collected as broadly as possible for all geographic areas and periods.
Library resources for the study of art and architectural history are primarily housed in the Sackler Library
. The Bodleian Library (including the History Faculty Library), Weston Library, Ruskin School of Art Library and Balfour Library at the Pitt Rivers Museum also hold important art-related research materials. Other, more specialised collections are to be found all over the University.
The Sackler Library opened in 2001 as the Bodleian Libraries' premier open-stack research collection for art, architecture and archaeology at Oxford. It incorporates the collections of a number of formerly separately-housed university/departmental libraries and is consequently divided into various specialist collections: Ancient Near Eastern Studies and Egyptology
; Classical art and archaeology
, including Classics
and Ancient History
; Byzantine art and architecture
; the art and architecture of the Western European tradition
; Islamic art, archaeology and architecture
; East and Southeast Asian art, archaeology and architecture
. Publications are collected in all appropriate languages. Most of the Sackler’s holdings are on SOLO
. Significant sections of the Sackler are non-circulating.
Sackler Library sub-collections
- Auction house and art dealers’ catalogues
While many auction and art dealer catalogues feature in the Sackler’s collections, the Bodleian Library’s holdings (especially of UK catalogues) are also strong. Most auction catalogues as well as many dealer catalogues are housed in the Bodleian Libraries' offsite facility and may be requested via the online catalogue (SOLO).
Some catalogues are recorded in handlists only; some have received box (group)-level cataloguing; others are fully catalogued on SOLO.
- Eastern Art Collection
This collection moved to the Sackler Library in 2004 as an amalgamation of the former library of the Department of Eastern Art at the Ashmolean Museum and the art-related collections of the Bodleian Library’s Department of Oriental Collections (including those held at the Oriental Institute Library). Its primary focus is Far Eastern art, architecture and archaeology (especially China but also Japan and Korea); the art, architecture and archaeology of the Islamic World and of the Indian Sub-continent.
- Haskell Collection
A closed-stack collection of French salon criticism and rare auction catalogues. The French salon criticism collection was assembled by Francis Haskell (1928-2000), Oxford’s second Professor of the History of Art. It is a unique assemblage of original publications (some of which are in the Rare Book Room) and photocopies detailing the opinions of French salon critics 1700-1901. (Many of these sources are now publicly available on the web.) The collection is complemented by the Deloynes collection of 18th-early 19th century French art criticism (on microfiche); and also by the Taylor Institution's library holdings of works by French literary figures writing on art.
- The former library of the History of Art Department's was originally designed to complement the holdings of the Ashmolean Museum’s former Western Art Library (see below). The collection is particularly strong in the historiography and methodology of art history; the history of taste in the 18th century, including the Grand Tour; and the art market in 19th century France. As of 2007, new titles acquired in these subject areas are added to the new, “Library of Congress” (LC) classification sequence (see below).
- The “Library of Congress” (LC) classification sequence was introduced to the Sackler in 2007 as part of the Bodleian Libraries' rationalisation of library holdings across the university. This classification system is used by most major North American research libraries and also, in a modified form, by many UK libraries. It is an alphanumeric system, with most books on art and architecture beginning with the letter “N” (History of Photography begins with “T”). See an outline of the system.
- The library collection formerly held by the Oxfordshire Architectural and Historical Society was placed on deposit with the Sackler Library when it opened in 2001. Holdings are listed in a separate card catalogue, also on deposit with the Sackler. The collection (which largely duplicates holdings of the Sackler, Bodleian and Weston libraries) comprises architectural and topographical publications on Oxfordshire and neighbouring counties.
- The Rare Book Room is a closed stack area containing most of the Sackler’s pre-1850 materials, as well as some more recent, valuable items. Titles are listed on SOLO and may be requested at the Sackler’s Ground Floor Help Desk.
- The Western Art Collection originated with the Ashmolean Museum’s Western Art Department's Library. Its holdings comprehensively reflect those of the Ashmolean’s Western Art collections in the fine and decorative arts, from ca. 1100 CE. Particular strengths include publications on paintings, prints and drawings, sculpture, silver and ceramics from the Renaissance to the present. Geographical areas covered include not only Western Europe and North America, but also Australia, Russia and Eastern Europe, and Latin America of the colonial and post-colonial periods. As of 2007, new titles acquired in these subject areas are added to the “Library of Congress” (LC) classification sequence (see above).
- The Wind Room contains a closed-stack collection comprising (mostly) publications purchased by, or in memory of Oxford's firt Professor of the History of Art, Edgar Wind (1900-1971), both for himself and also for the History of Art Department. While there is a strong focus on the art of Italy and on iconography and iconology (Wind was Erwin Panofsky’s first doctoral student), the collections reflect Professor Wind’s extremely broad research interests. New publications in Wind’s areas of interest continue to be collected. Early publications (15thC - 18thC) are housed in the Wind Room itself with more recent publications housed either in the Sackler's open-stacks or at the Bodleian Libraries' offsite facility.
- Non-book materials relating to Edgar Wind during his Oxford years also may be found in other locations. Connect here to the Edgar Wind & Oxford pages for further information.
By virtue of its status as a copyright library, many UK publications on art and architecture arrive at the Bodleian Libraries through the Legal deposit agreement. Some of these are transferred to the Sackler but, for reasons of space, many titles remain at the Offsite Facility.
Other libraries with art- & architecture-related collections
- Balfour Library This library is attached to the Pitt Rivers Museum, and also functions as the teaching and research library of the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography. While there are some overlaps, its holdings on anthropology, ethnography and art history mostly cover cultural groups and geographical areas not addressed by the Sackler’s collections.
The Continuing Education Library
collects in support of the many
art and architecture courses taught at the Continuing Education Department.
- Oxford Brookes University (Headington Campus) Library includes an extensive collection of books in support of its architecture, fine arts and history of art programmes. It includes the former library collection of Modern Art Oxford (Oxford MoMA).
- The Ruskin School of Art Library has a small but good collection of key catalogues, texts and periodicals on the history of art (drawing, colour, perception and perspective) and especially modern and contemporary art.
- The Taylor Institution Research Collections include the Strachan Collection of 19th and 20th century livres d’artiste. (See Giles Barber and Eunice Martin. French livres d’artiste in Oxford University collections [Oxford, 1996].) The library holds important texts by writers (mostly French) on art and travel. Publications on literary/art movements such as Futurism, Surrealism and Symbolism are extensively collected. The Taylor collects in support of the film studies programme. The Sir Robert Taylor collection, the 18th century architect with whom the institution originated, comprises a small collection of original drawings and illustrated architecture books. (See David Gilson. Books from the library of Sir Robert Taylor in the library of the Taylor Institution, Oxford [Oxford, 1973).)
- Worcester College Architectural Library, Drawings and Print collections The College has an important collection of architectural drawings by Inigo Jones, Nicholas Hawksmoor and others, which came from the bequest of George Clarke (1660-1736). (See John Harris and A.A. Tait. Catalogue of the drawings by Inigo Jones, John Webb and Isaac de Caus at Worcester College, Oxford [Oxford, 1979].) Some later drawings by William Burges and others also form part of the collection. Researchers should make an appointment. Worcester's George Clark Print Collection may be searched online. If not available at the Bodleian or the Sackler, titles in the Cyril Eland collection of architectural books may be consultated by members of the university; an appointment is necessary.