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Conducting Research, The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs

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Access Information for the Art & Architecture Collection

Artist Files

Among the Library's unique resources are the Artist Files. The origins of the Artist Files date from the late nineteenth century, and ephemeral printed materials relating to individual artists have been collected since that time. The collection focus on painters, sculptors, and architects of all levels of importance and fame, but its greatest strength lies in its inclusion of minor and popular artists. There are over a million items on painters, sculptors, architects, fashion designers, designers, jewelers, craftsmen, collectors, among other types of personalities and artisans. The range of material is broad and consists of articles from magazines and newspapers, reproductions, photographs, manuscripts, gallery and museum announcements, exhibition brochures and press releases. The files are uncataloged and there are, as yet, no reference to them in our printed or online catalogs. 

Auction Indexes

Auction indexes are valuable tools to determine if a work of art was sold at auction and at what price. The Art Collection has a wide range of auction indexes covering both fine and decorative arts, as well as collectibles, sold at auction houses worldwide. Indexes may provide the name, dates and nationality of the artist, the title of work, dimensions, medium, and price realized. A few of the indexes provide images, bibliographic, and provenance information.

The following indexes are available in the Art Collection: ArtInfo: Art Sales IndexArtNetAskArtInvaluable (formerly Artfact)Leonard's Combined Price Index of Art AuctionsMayer's International Auction RecordsP4A Antiques Reference Database, and Gordon's Print and Photography Price Index. These databases are fee-based, but available free of charge when used in the Art & Architecture Collection of The Stephen A. Schwarzman Building.

Catalogues Raisonnés

A catalogue raisonné is a comprehensive, annotated listing of all the known works of an artist in a particular medium or all media. It provides an illustration with title, dimensions, date, techniques, provenance, and literature in reference to each specific work. In contrast, an oeuvre catalog is a listing with illustrations of an artist's works that may contain a citation, though primarily provides a checklist of each work. Request these items at the reference desk. For a detailed description go to What is a Catalogue Raisonné?

Pamphlet Files

The Pamphlet Files, an original, yet uncataloged, resource at the Library, consists of exhibition brochures, fliers, small exhibition catalogues, gallery announcements, newsletters and other ephemera relating predominately to New York City and State galleries and museums—including those at colleges and universities, societies, foundations, and other arts organizations. In addition, there are files for one-time arts events and movements such as: "New York State Exposition" and "Art for Peace." Click to view the A to Z list.

Research Consultations

Thirty minute consultations are available with a librarian for researchers undertaking an in-depth research project such as writing a book, article, thesis or publication project. To determine if this consultation is appropriate or to schedule an appointment, speak with a staff member at the reference desk or email us at art@nypl.org.

Vertical File

The Vertical File contains ephemeral materials, such as newspaper clippings, correspondence, and guidebooks, which refer to various art-related topics. Many of the materials are bibliographical, and the majority of them originate from the early-to mid-twentieth century (1910s–1950s). Materials are no longer being added to the Vertical File. Contents may have changed as items have been classified and added to the collection as discrete titles and/or monographs. Click to view the A to Z list.

Internet Resources

There are numerous Internet sites that can prove helpful to your research.

Requesting Materials

No appointment is necessary to consult with Photography Collection staff during public service hours, though advance planning is strongly recommended for research. Twenty-four hour notification is required for the retrieval of collection materials. Most book materials on photography can be requested through room 300 and do not require advance notification.

A Special Collections card is required to use the Photography Collection; this can be obtained from Photography Staff in Room 308. Prior to obtaining admissions to Special Collections, users must first obtain a Library Card. For use of original photographic material, the reader must apply for a card of admission from the department. Each applicant must provide traceable identification and supply the name and address of a non-relative reference that can verify the information on the application. The card of admission must be obtained in person and it is not transferable. The card is granted for a period not to exceed six months. Please note a card of admission does not guarantee access to all materials.

Prints and Photographs Study Room  

The Prints and Photographs Study Room (Room 308) is for use by readers and researchers who are using materials from either the Print or Photography Collection, and is open Tuesday through Saturday, 1:00 to 5:45 pm. The Print and Photography Collections have separate staffs, but share a public study room.

Access Information for the Photography Collection

Readers are required to store all personal belongings in the Library’s Checkroom (the Checkroom is located on the first floor across from the Library gift shop). To protect fragile collection materials, the following items are not permitted in the Prints and Photographs Study Room:

  • Coats and Outerwear (including hats and umbrellas)
  • Bags, Briefcases and Purses larger than 11” x 14”
  • Containers, Parcels and Luggage (including portfolio folders)
  • Wheeled conveyances (including strollers)
  • Laptop Computer Cases larger than 11” x 14”
  • Food and Beverages
  • Newspapers
  • Electronic Scanners
  • Pens and Highlighters

Clear plastic bags are provided to readers at the Checkroom for conveying personal items to the study room. All checked materials must be picked up 10 minutes prior to closing. Library visitors must submit all books, bags, briefcases, and other containers for inspection when exiting the building, including those items that were checked during a library visit. Photography Collection researchers may be asked to check items in the Library’s Checkroom if they are deemed inappropriate by departmental staff.

Photography Collection researchers must be at least 18 years old. Children younger than 18 are not permitted in the Prints and Photographs Study Room. All notes must be made in pencil. The use of personal computers is permitted, but readers may be asked to check their laptop computer case. No cellular phone usage, including text messaging, is permitted in the Study Room. The two computer terminals located in the Study Room are for research purposes only. These terminals may not be used for personal email or Internet usage. Photography Collection materials may not be transferred to another reader.

Handling Materials in the Photography Collection

Researchers are asked to follow Photography Collection staff instructions regarding the proper touching and handling of images in the Collection. Researchers can help extend the life of photographs by following these simple preservation-oriented directions.

  • Please wash your hands prior to handling photographs. Some collections may require the use of cotton gloves, which will be provided by Photography Collection staff.
  • Do not touch the photographic surface. Handle photographs by their edges.
  • Take care to adequately support photographs when removing them from boxes or folders.
  • Photographs should remain face-up at all times.
  • Do not lean on or place anything on top of collection materials.
  • When viewing a collection of images, please maintain the original order of the box and/or folders.
  • Photographs may not be removed from their protective sleeves in order to see the verso (reverse side of the image).

Photographic Services & Permissions 

Photography of materials in the Study Room is not permitted. For information about obtaining photographic reproductions of items from the collection, please consult with the Library’s Office of Photographic Services & Permissions.

Access Information for the Print Collection

No appointment is necessary to use the Print Collection’s resources, although the reader must first apply for a card of admission. Please note that it is necessary to make an appointment to see Spencer Collection items; and readers wishing to consult the Division’s Renaissance and Medieval Manuscripts are required to request and receive permission in writing before their research visits. Please scroll down to the Renaissance and Medieval Manuscripts section for more information. Coats and bags must be checked in the first floor checkroom prior to entering the Study Room.

The Print Collection follows Research Libraries policy regarding reference inquiries received by mail, fax (212-930-0530), and email (prints@nypl.org). According to this policy we may respond to requests that can be quickly answered about Library holdings and for information on a subject within an area of the Library's responsibility. Requests which require more in-depth research may be directed to the Library's fee-based information service, NYPL Express. Requests for photographic reproduction or microfilm copies are forwarded to Photographic Services and Permissions.

Many questions concerning holdings, hours, etc., may be answer online. Current and retrospective book and periodical collections of the Print Collection can be found by searching the Library's online catalog. Please refer to the Guide to Researching Prints for more in-depth information on research strategies.

Among the services we can provide:

  • Check Research Libraries holdings for specific titles
  • Check internal card file for holdings by specific printmakers or for clipping files
  • Help identify printmaker and medium (please send either a clear photocopy or digital file)

We can also answer general reference inquiries relating to prints and printmakers, illustrated and artists books and caricatures.

Among the reference services we cannot provide:

  • Assign values or authenticate prints
  • Perform extensive picture or subject research

Certain subjects are covered in other collections:

Direct questions about photography and photographs to the Photography Collection.

Direct questions about fine and decorative arts, including drawings and posters, to Art & Architecture Collection.

Direct questions about prints and photographs concerning the history and culture of peoples of African descent to Photographs and Prints DivisionThe Schomburg Center.

Some graphic materials pertaining to the performing arts are held in the Print Collection, but questions about images and caricatures relating to the performing arts should also be directed to The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

Correspondence is answered in order of receipt—faxed or emailed requests do not receive priority over mailed requests. Due to the heavy volume of requests coming to the Print Collection, correspondents are asked to consider the needs of their fellow researchers and refrain from submitting multiple requests.

Access Information for The Medieval and Renaissance Western Manuscripts Collection

The Library safeguards nearly 300 manuscripts in this category, they are entrusted to the Manuscripts and Archives Division and the Spencer Collection. The hundred most significant for the history of thought were exhibited in 2005–2006, and extensively studied in The Splendor of the Word: Medieval and Renaissance Illuminated Manuscripts at The New York Public Library (New York & London, 2005).

Our priority is to preserve these manuscripts for the instruction and enlightenment of future generations. In observing our policy of making the collection items available to researchers, we permit the study of our manuscripts under the following guidelines.

  • Prior registration is required. Researchers are required to request and receive permission in writing from the respective curator or deputy before visiting the Library. Email is the most reliable and prompt method.
  • For manuscripts in the Manuscripts and Archives Division (NYPL MA 1 and following), apply at manuscripts@nypl.org. The service location for these manuscripts is the Brooke Russell Astor Reading Room for Rare Books and Manuscripts (room 328). Public hours, which vary from Tuesday through Saturday, are posted on the division's website.
  • For manuscripts in the Spencer Collection (NYPL Spencer 1 and following) apply at prints@nypl.org.The service location for these manuscripts is the Wallach Division Prints and Photographs Study Room (room 308).  Collection hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 1:00 to 6:00 pm.
  • Researchers will be required to consult and exhaust all available resources, such as departmental files, catalogs, facsimiles, transparencies, digital images, microfilms, and the 10,000 detailed slides that the Library has for use, prior to inspecting a manuscript first-hand. All of these surrogates are available at the Library, and some of this material may be viewed online.
  • Direct access to the original manuscripts will be restricted to qualified scholars with experience in handling such materials and a demonstrated need to consult the manuscripts first-hand.
  • Certain highly fragile and extensively studied manuscripts, such as the Tickhill Psalter (NYPL Spencer 26; Splendor cat. No. 41), are not available for direct consultation.
  • On occasion, a manuscript may be in conservation or on exhibition, and not available.

Selected Resources:

Substantial information about the Library's Western manuscripts is available on Digital Scriptorium, and may be consulted at http://www.scriptorium.columbia.edu.

Digital images of many of our Western manuscripts may be viewed on the Library's site at http://digitalgallery.nypl.org/nypldigital.

Inquiries concerning obtaining copies of specific images from these manuscripts may be made to permissions@nypl.org.

The 10,000 slides, made in 2004, provide extensive details from all the Western manuscripts, and may be consulted on site with the assistance of the curator or a staff member of the Manuscript and Archives Division or the Spencer Collection.

The Medici Aesop: NYPL Spencer 50, intro. Everett Fahy, trans. Bernard McTigue (New York: NYPL, 2005). A copy may be ordered from The Library Shop.

The Splendor of the Word: Medieval and Renaissance Illuminated Manuscripts at The New York Public Library, by Jonathan J. G. Alexander, James H. Marrow, and Lucy Freedman Sandler (New York & London: NYPL & Harvey Miller Publishers, 2005).

The Towneley Lectionary Illuminated for Cardinal Alessandro Farnese by Giulio Clovio, by Jonathan J.  G. Alexander (London: Roxburghe Club, 1997).