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Tuesday–Friday: 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.

For more information or to ask a reference question, please fill out the Reference Questions form, or call 215-684-7650 or send an e-mail to .

Access to the Library is free. Visitors may request a Researcher’s Pass from the guard at the Perelman Building entrance.

Search Online: Library CatalogFinding AidsDatabases & IndexesAuction Resources

As one of the major art reference libraries in the United States, the Museum Library houses approximately 200,000 books, auction catalogues, and periodicals dating from the sixteenth century to the present. Reflecting the Museum's rich and distinctive collections, the Library's holdings focus on European, American, and Asian painting and sculpture; furniture and decorative arts; arms and armor; costume and textiles; prints, drawings, and photographs; and modern and contemporary art. The Library also subscribes to a growing collection of electronic resources, available on workstations in the Reading Room.

Library Installation

Stories of Art at Auction
This Little Picture Went to Market: Stories of Art at Auction
Opening February 4, 2014
Going to sale at auction is a momentous step in an artwork’s career: it’s on the precipice of a new collection and new interpretations. The moment may also mark one of the few times that a particular work’s existence is publicly recorded, as it passes between private hands. With good cataloging, the object’s provenance is documented up through the current owner, and it is presented in good faith as a genuine work (though caveat emptor, “let the buyer beware,” has always applied).

Auction catalogs are unique information sources. They are, on the one hand, produced for the sake of art collectors before a sale. After the sale, however, the audience grows to include dealers, appraisers, academic researchers, museum professionals, and the auction houses themselves. The catalogs provide authoritative information about who has owned a work, and the post-sale price list or notes recorded in the margins document a monetary value. As tools evolve to aggregate this information, it even becomes possible to use auction results as a data set, minable for trends in the art market.

The Museum Library’s collection of auction catalogs numbers over 60,000 volumes, documenting sales from the eighteenth century to the present. The publications have evolved considerably over time, from bland inventories to glossy volumes with foldouts and full art-historical essays. Presented here are notable sales and notable catalogs, including catalogs with margin illustrations by the eighteenth-century French artist Gabriel Jacques de Saint-Aubin, a catalog from the infamous 1939 Galerie Fischer sale of Nazi-purged art, and a catalog from the 2012 sale of Roy Lichtenstein’s Pop Art painting Sleeping Girl.

The Library Reading Room, second floor, Perelman Building

Digital Collections

Ronaele Manor
The collection of heraldic stained glass at Ronaele Manor, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania :the residence of Mr. & Mrs. Fitz Eugene Dixon /described by F. Sydney Eden. -- London : Arden Press, 1927.
The Library is creating distinctive digital collections that provide access to its rare materials to support research and education at the Museum, to enhance scholarship worldwide, to increase access to its holdings, and to promote lifelong learning. Digitizing also aids in preservation by reducing the need for handling the originals. Scrapbooks from the Archives; rare art auction catalogs; books and ephemera on European and American decorative arts and arms and armor; and the Museum’s own publications are just some examples of the items that staff are digitizing and making freely available to all on the Internet Archive.

Browse our contributions to the Internet Archive.

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