Auerbach Art Library and Museum Archives
The Wadsworth Atheneum is a valuable resource for local scholars, students, and the public. Housed within the museum, the Auerbach Art Library and Museum Archives support research of the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art’s collections, exhibition activities, and institutional history.
The Auerbach Art Library’s extensive holdings of scholarly monographs, exhibition catalogues, fine art periodicals, museum bulletins, and auction catalogues are ranked among the most comprehensive art historical collections in New England. Additionally, the museum’s archives hold the records of founders, trustees, donors, directors, curators, and other staff members, along with artists, scholars, and patrons associated with the museum. These materials document the history of how the Wadsworth Atheneum developed from a local cultural institution to an art museum of international prominence.
The Auerbach Art Library
The Auerbach Art Library occupies three floors in the north wing of the original Wadsworth building. The collection consists of more than 50,000 acquired volumes. Additionally, it houses thousands of smaller catalogues and pamphlets in vertical files.
While not intended as a rare-book collection, the library includes notable volumes from Daniel Wadsworth, J. P. Morgan, Mrs. Samuel Colt, the Goodwin family, and others, as well as some 3,000 titles from the Watkinson Library collection. More recently the library has benefited from the donation of contemporary artists books from the Hartford-born artist, Sol LeWitt.
The library’s furnishings and design recall the museum’s genesis as a 19th century “atheneum.” The main reading room is paneled in oak shelving from the original Watkinson Library of 1866. The walnut chairs are reproductions from Wallace Nutting’s Colonial Revival furniture shop.
History of the Auerbach Art Library
Books and libraries have always been important components of the Wadsworth Atheneum. Museum founder Daniel Wadsworth envisioned the museum to be a multipurpose cultural center dedicated to the preservation and presentation of diverse knowledge—historical, literary, and artistic.
Fittingly, every major Hartford library collection has been located here at some point in its history. The Watkinson Library, Hartford Public Library, Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford Art School Library, and even the library of the Hartford Medical Society all trace their roots back to the Wadsworth Atheneum.
The Auerbach Art Library began as the Avery Memorial Reference Library, a prominent feature of the Avery Memorial Building, dedicated in 1934. Opening onto a dramatic central court and fountain, the library was designed and furnished in the spare international style known as Modernism that characterized the Avery building’s court and galleries.
Funding and acquisitions increased in the mid-1950s and by the 1960s the Avery Library had reached full capacity. In 1969, as part of a museum-wide renovation, the library’s 7,000 volumes were moved into spacious new quarters. It was then renamed to commemorate the sustained support and generosity of Beatrice Fox Auerbach, museum benefactor, Hartford businesswomen, and granddaughter of the founder of G. Fox and Company.
The Museum Archives
The Wadsworth Atheneum’s archives contain the historical records of the museum, dating back to its founding in 1842 to the present. These records include official documents, photographs, correspondence, motion pictures, video and audiotapes of museum events, oral histories, catalogues, bulletins, annual reports, and memorabilia.
The archives contain more than 300,000 pages of preserved documents, including correspondence with important figures in the art world such as John Trumbull, Benjamin West, Sir Thomas Lawrence, Thomas Cole, J. Pierpont Morgan, Gertrude Stein, Virgil Thomson, Alexander Calder, Piet Mondrian, Le Corbusier, Alfred Barr, Philip Johnson, Lincoln Kirstein, Salvador Dalí, Max Ernst, and Andrew Wyeth.
Confirmed research appointments are required to view all library and archives materials. Appointments must be scheduled in advance and submitted with a list of requested reference materials. Please note that all research collections are non-circulating. After receiving the research request, library and archives staff will confirm the date, time, and availability of materials. Please use the Research Visit Request Form to schedule your visit. Visits are not confirmed until the specific time and date is confirmed by library and archives staff.
Research appointments can be scheduled for Fridays from 10am–5pm and are held in the Auerbach Art Library reading room. The library reading room is accessible to visitors with limited mobility and wheelchairs. Please let us know if you have any specific needs.
For questions concerning the library, archives, and their collections, call (860) 838-4116.
Researchers may keep with them only the items approved for research – pencils, paper, phone, and laptop computer. Coats, bags, backpacks, and briefcases must be stored in an area separate from where the researcher is working. No food or drinks are allowed.
Photocopying and internet access are available during research visits. Materials that are at risk of damage because of their fragile condition cannot be photocopied; cell phone images may be permitted as an alternative. All reproductions of library and archives materials are for private research and study only.
Rights and Reproductions
Access to view library and archives materials does not include permission and right to publish the contents. It is the responsibility of the researcher, not the museum, library, or archives, to obtain permission to publish or quote from materials from all copyright holders, including the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art.
The library and archives follow all museum safety guidelines. Masks must be worn throughout the research visit.