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Collection Development Policy

Art, Architecture and Photography

Art, Architecture and Photography
Nancy Spiegel
May 2008


Brief Overview of the Collection

  • History: Art and Architecture titles have been collected continuously since the founding of the University. In 1938, materials in the Fine Arts were separated from the Classics Library, of which they were originally a part, and housed in a dedicated Art Library in Goodspeed Hall. The collection moved to its current location in Regenstein Library in 1977.

  • Broad subject areas emphasized or de-emphasized:  The collection  encompasses art in all media, theory and criticism from the post-Classical period to the present, with an emphasis on Western Europe, the United States, Latin America and East Asia.  Strengths of the collection reflect both the past and current curricular and research emphases of departmental faculty.  There is deep coverage of Early Christian and Medieval architecture, the illumination of books and manuscripts, and the art of the Renaissance, particularly in Italy. Later areas of strength include 17th-century Dutch and Flemish art, Impressionism and other “isms” of the 19th and 20th centuries, the history of photography, and growing depth in the art of post-1960s Europe and the United States.

  • Description of academic program:  The Art History department offers a BA, MA and Ph.D in Art History. The Department of Visual Arts offers a BFA and an MFA. The collection also serves the Masters of Arts Program in the Humanities (MAPH), and the closely-affiliated Committee on Cinema and Media Studies, which offers BA, MA and Ph.D. degrees.

  • Audience/Purpose:  The collection supports instruction and student research through the Ph.D level, as well as faculty research. Students and faculty members  in the Art History Department, Department of Visual Arts, and staff of the Smart Museum and the Renaissance Society, are the primary constituencies served. The collection also supports the undergraduate teaching programs of the College Core curriculum, and the work of faculty and students in other disciplines who engage in aspects of visual studies. A secondary purpose of the Art collection is to support the cultural and recreational interests of the University community at large.

Collecting guidelines

Levels of selection: Comprehensive, research, instructional support, basic information; for a description of these levels, see the general policy statement.

  • Museums Studies, Collectors and Collecting (AM 1-501):  Includes museology, the history of museums, biographies of collectors, and catalogs of single private collections. Guides to the antiques and collectibles market are considered out of scope, with the exception of scholarly works on the decorative arts. Research level in Western languages.
  • Periodicals, societies, encyclopedias, directories (N1-61): Research level in Western languages.

  • Architecture (NA) The collection is strong in architectural history, particularly of the early modern period, the Chicago School of architecture, and historic preservation.  Responsibility for material in vernacular architecture is shared with the Social Sciences Bibliographer. Materials on city planning and most guidebooks are selected by the Bibliographer for Geography. Technical material related to building design and construction (computer aided design, "how-to" books, etc.) are considered out of scope. The history of architecture and individual architects' catalogs are collected at a research level in Western languages. Studies documenting the work of contemporary firms are collected on an instructional support level. The library’s collection is supplemented by the very strong architectural holdings of the Ryerson and Burnham Libraries of the Art Institute of Chicago.
  • Sculpture (NB) The NB classification includes church decoration and ornament, monuments, memorials, and public sculpture.  Collected on a research level in Western languages.

  • Drawing and Design (NC): Exhibition catalogs of works on paper and collection catalogs are selected on a research level in Western languages. Less emphasis is placed on commercial art and graphic design. The selection of materials in book illustration is shared with the Library Science Bibliographer and the Bibliographer for Religion (Bible illustration, etc.)

  • Painting (ND) The materials found within the ND classification include the illumination of books, stylistic periods and movements (mannerism, abstract expressionism), individual artists, and genres (still life, marine painters). This classification is well represented across all chronological periods and geographical areas, with particular strength in German, Italian, French, Dutch, and Flemish art. Latin American artists are also collected broadly. The collection in post-war, and post -1960 European and American art is increasing in strength and diversity in response to curricular interest, both in the Art History Department and elsewhere. The collection in American, Latin American and European painting is acquired on a research level; materials from Oceania, Canada, Australia, on an instructional support level.

  • Print  Media (NE) Collected on a research level in Western languages. The Renaissance, particularly in Italy, 17th century Dutch and Flemish studies, and German scholarship on printers and printmaking comprise the collection’s strengths.
  •  Decorative Arts, Applied Arts, Decoration and Ornament (NK) The Library holds a strong collection with particular emphases on stained glass, furniture, metalwork and ceramics of the United States and Europe. The decorative arts collection is extensively augmented by Bibliographers in East Asian, Middle Eastern and South Asian studies. The Social Sciences Bibliographer contributes to the literature on fashion and textile history. Titles in the decorative arts are collected on a research level in Western languages, with more emphasis on worldwide arts and crafts movements, interior decoration and contemporary craft than on studies focused on “great riches.”
  • Arts in general (NX) The NX classification includes artists working in multimedia; installation and performance artists of all nationalities (Vito Acconci, Mona Hatoum), artistic movements (surrealism, situationism), or broadly multidisciplinary works (popular culture and gender; technology and creativity). Collected on a research level in Western languages.

  • Photography (TR) Acquired on a research level in Western languages, with a current emphasis on the work of contemporary photographers and exhibition catalogs.  The Art Bibliographer collects titles emphasizing the history and artistic uses of photography. The technical literature on photography is selected by the Bibliographer for the History of Science and Technology and normally locates in Crerar Library.

Type of materials included and excluded:

The traditional art-historical genres are all actively acquired. These include  exhibition catalogues, catalogues raisonnes, collection catalogues, inventories of architectural  monuments and or works of art, critical editions of writings by artists, and anthologies of previously unpublished essays. Artists’ videos represent an area of growing interest and are added as funds permit.

Artists’ books are acquired on a selective basis, with a preference for works published in large editions, but some examples of limited and fine edition presses are added. Attention is given to representing a variety of illustrative methods, structures, papers, and bindings in the collection.

The library purchases facsimiles very selectively, as funds allow, and based on faculty recommendation or to build on established special collections.

Auction sales catalogs are added on a very selective basis and integrated into the general circulating collection. The Library subscribes to Scipio, a union catalog of auction catalog holders, and Artnet, an auction results database with coverage of recent sales, and relies on the Ryerson and Burnham Libraries for access to a comprehensive collection of printed auction sales catalogs.  

The collection excludes histories and surveys of art and architecture developed for elementary and secondary school students, as well as most materials on practical technique and “how to” books. Unrevised dissertations available online through the Library’s subscription to Proquest Digital Theses and Dissertations are excluded as well.

  • Physical formats included and excluded
    All formats are acquired.  Print is still preferred over electronic access to heavily illustrated periodicals when possible. The library subscribes to image databases such as Artstor, Camio, and Artnet to support visual research across the curriculum.
  • Publication dates collected: Emphasis is given to the acquisition of current titles, but appropriate earlier imprints are acquired, when possible, to fill gaps in the collection. Titles published before 1800 are selected in collaboration with the Head of Rare Books.

  • Languages: Titles are chosen for their importance regardless of language, but  English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish are preferred. English translations of important works are purchased selectively; French, German or Italian translations of works originally published in languages likely to be less familiar to patrons are also considered selectively. The Art Bibliographer relies on several Area Studies selectors for non-English language materials published in China and Japan, and for most titles published in South Asia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

  • Geographical range: The emphasis is on titles published in Western Europe, North America and Latin America, with a more limited acquisition of bilingual and English-language works from China and Japan. Materials from Africa are acquired on a selective basis, in coordination with the selector for African Studies.

  • Chronological span: Titles from the post-Classical period to the present are collected.  Selection of Classical Art and Architecture is the responsibility of the Classics Bibliographer.  Pre-Columbian art and artifacts are the purview of the Bibliographer for Anthropology.

Areas of distinction

Important collections include finely printed books and examples of advertising art from the R. R. Donnelley & Sons Company Training Department Library, and early illustrated books by Durer and others. Significant archival and manuscript collections include the Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae, a collection of engravings illustrating architecture and monuments of ancient and modern Rome.

Related University of Chicago collections

The John Crerar Library holds a notable collection in architecture and building technology that  augments the modern architecture holdings of the Art Collection. The Crerar materials are also particularly rich in the history of photography, American vernacular architecture, and significant titles in American decorative arts and garden design.

Cooperative arrangements and related collections

Other libraries in Chicago complement the University of Chicago’s collections in Art, Architecture and Photography. These include the Ryerson and Burnham Libraries at the Art Institute of Chicago (architecture, connoisseurship, provenance research) the Flaxman Library at the School of the Art Institute (Joan Flasch collection of artists’ books); Columbia College (street art, performance) Northwestern University (African art, symbolist and avant-garde periodicals); Newberry Library (illuminated manuscripts).

Subject Specialist

Profile Photo
Nancy Spiegel
Bibliographer for Art and Cinema
Bibliographer for History
Regenstein Library Room 463