Library reading room

Spencer Art Reference Library

Spencer Art Reference Library Hours
Tues, By Appointment
Wed, 10 a.m.—5 p.m.
Thur/Fri, 10 a.m.—6 p.m.
Sat/Sun, 1 p.m.—4 p.m.

Holiday Schedule
Closed Dec 24-25, 2014 and Jan 2-4, 2015

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Online Resources
Library Guides


Free and open to all who are interested in learning about the visual arts.
The Library’s encyclopedic collections and information services provide an important research resource for Kansas City and the Midwestern region. The library’s collections of over 248,000 materials; includes exhibition catalogs, artist monographs, specialized reference works, more than 500 journals and magazines, 44,000 auction catalogs and 8,000 vertical files on art and artists. This entire collection can be searched anytime using the library’s Online Catalog.

Visitors to the library may also use the library’s online catalog to search the digital subscription resources. These resources include information from art encyclopedias, historic newspapers, full-text and indexed access to articles as well as art prices from art sales databases. Free digital publications from U.S. museums are also accessible. Digital resources are searchable from any of the public computer stations available in the library reading room.

Specialized Collections
Artists’ File Initiative
The artists’ file initiative documents the careers of artists who are part of Kansas City’s creative community. These files are as unique as the artists’ careers they document and may include artist statements, gallery announcements, resumes and exhibition checklists. Browse artist files

Special Collections
The special collections include materials of institutional importance, such as museum founder William Rockhill Nelson’s Oak Hall Collection, the Karen Gould teaching collection of Medieval manuscripts and many more rare publications.

We’re here to help…
Whether you’re an art enthusiast, scholarly researcher or just love libraries, Library Staff members are available to help. We offer walk-in reference assistance, in-depth scheduled reference appointments and topic-specific research sessions tailored for individuals, groups or classes. These tailored sessions are designed to introduce successful research strategies as well as highlight special materials in the library’s collections - we’ll work with you to create a tailored session to support your research, teaching or learning goals.

The Spencer Art Reference Library is a non-circulating collection where materials are used in the library’s reading room. Library researchers have access to a copier, with scanning capabilities, Wi-Fi access,

Located on the second floor of the Bloch Building the Spencer Art Reference Library was designed by award-winning architect Steven Holl. The Library Reading Room is free and open to the public. It features a browsing collection of 4,000 of the most frequently consulted reference works and publications; including catalogs of the Museum’s exhibitions dating back to 1933, a browsing collection of 250 select journals and magazines, newspapers, and current auction sales catalogs. All other materials are kept in closed stacks which library staff can retrieve upon request.

Contact us for more information about the reference library


The purpose of the Archives is to document the history and activities of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the Nelson Gallery Foundation, the William Rockhill Nelson Trust and other affiliated organizations. As a supplement to the official record, the Archives also collects the personal papers and manuscript material of former Museum staff and other individuals associated with the Museum.

Materials in the Museum Archives are available to the public by appointment only. Call 816.751.1354 to schedule an appointment.

Archives Hours
Tuesday–Friday, 8 a.m.—4 p.m.

Contact us for more information about the archives

Visual Resources Library

The Visual Resources Library is available only to Museum staff, visiting Museum speakers and local academic faculty, and provides an encyclopedic image collection for lectures, presentations and research.

Visual Resources Library Hours
Tuesday–Friday, 10 a.m.—4 p.m.

Contact us for more information about the visual resources library

Educator Resource Center
Where the power of art engages the spirit of community
© 2015 The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
4525 Oak Street, Kansas City, MO 64111 | 816.751.1278