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.

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The Spencer Art Reference Library at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art welcomes everyone interested in studying the history of the visual arts. The Library’s encyclopedic collections and information services provide an extensive research resource in the Kansas City and Midwestern region.

The Spencer Library is the only place you need to go for art related resources, whether you want to keep up with the newest art periodicals, peruse the latest exhibition catalogs and Museum publications or dig deeper into a specific collection or work of art. Library staff is here to assist you with all of these areas of interest and more. Library services are designed to support visitor learning interests and the research needs of the museum and the community in a welcoming environment.

The library’s collections includes over 240,000 materials, including exhibition catalogs, artist monographs, specialized reference works, more than 500 journal and periodical current subscriptions, 40,000 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. Digital resources are searchable from any of the public computer stations available in the library reading room. Free Wi-Fi access is available for library visitors.

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, as well as hold shelves to accommodate long-term research projects.

Library staff members are happy to help individuals with personal learning interests or research. Staff members are ready to provide walk-in reference assistance, and no appointments are needed. They can also schedule introductions to available resources or topic specific research sessions tailored for individuals, groups or classes. These tailored sessions can be designed to introduce successful research strategies as well as highlight special materials in the library’s collections. From the Karen Gould teaching collection of Medieval manuscripts, the Artists’ Book collection, a growing collection of photography books and periodicals to the volumes from William Rockhill Nelson’s personal library, we’ll create a tailored session to support your research, teaching or learning goals. The library will also create reserve sections for any group wishing to have materials kept on hold for specific projects in the reading room.

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.

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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.

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Visual Resources Library

The Slide/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.

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Educator Resource Center
Where the power of art engages the spirit of community
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