The Spencer Art Reference Library collects print and online resources on art and design to support the museum’s encyclopedic collection. The library is located on the second floor of the Bloch Building, accessible from the Bloch Lobby. All library materials may be used onsite.

Library Hours
Wednesday: 10 am–5 pm
Thursday & Friday: 10 am–6 pm
Saturday & Sunday: 1–4 pm
Tuesday by Appointment

Contact Us
Reference Desk: 816-751-1216

Library Public Staff
Marilyn Carbonell, Head, Library Services
Amelia Nelson, Librarian, Public Services


Library Catalog

Library-Catalog-podThe Spencer Art Reference Library makes 248,000 materials accessible to anyone interested in exploring the visual arts. This entire collection can be searched anytime using the library’s Online Catalog.

Search the 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.

Search Digital Resources

Artists’ File Initiative
The artists’ file initiative documents the careers of local 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.

Search the Collection

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 leaves and many more rare publications.

Educator Resource Center
Created for teachers and educational professionals, the Educator Resource Center (ERC) contains a wide array of books, Art Connection Kits, videos and other materials available for check out.

Learn More about the ERC

Library Guides

Library-Guides-podConnect to library materials that support the museum’s exhibitions as well as resources on objects in the museum’s collection.

Research Guides
Need to research an item in the museum’s collection or learn more about a piece of artwork from your own collection? Guides in this section provide strategies for starting this research.

View Research Guides

Subject Guides
Explore library resources supporting topics as diverse as African Art, The Bloch Building: The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art or American Art in the 1940s. These guide supports museum exhibitions past and present.

Search Subject Guides

Artist Guides
From Auguste Rodin to Thomas Hart Benton, guides in this section highlight resources from the library’s collections on individual artists.

Search Artist Guides

Library Displays
Resources supporting museum exhibitions are on display in the library’s reading room.

Library Events

Library-Events-podResearch for Inspiration
This is an on-going series co-hosted by the Spencer Art Reference Library and the Educator Resource Center. Get inspired! Participants will use the unique resources in the Spencer Art Reference Library and the Educator Resource Center as a starting point for creative exploration.

Explore the Hidden Life of your Objects
This is an on-going series where participants can use the resources in the library to learn more about their treasures. Bring photos of your object to learn how to unlock its past using resources in the Spencer Art Reference Library. Sorry no appraisals.

Explore More
The library supports museum exhibitions, scholarship and free-choice learning with unique programs throughout the year. Check the calendar to find out what’s on the horizon.

Find Library Events

Museum Archives

Museum-Archives-podThe Archives documents 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.

Explore the Archives

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 am-4 pm

Holly Wright, Archivist

Local Artists

Artists’ File Initiative
The library works with local artists to document the careers of artists practicing in the Kansas City community.

These files are as unique as the artists’ careers they document and may include artist statements, gallery announcements, resumes and exhibition checklists.

Explore Artists’ Files