A Library In A Museum: What Could Be Better?

Libraries within some of the country's significant museums contain a wide range of materials related to the museums' mission.

There are freestanding libraries all over the U.S. But there are also libraries within some of the country’s major museums, containing a wide range of materials related to the museums’ mission. Here are some libraries that work collaboratively with museums. Public access varies from collection to collection, so contact the library before visiting.


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The Smithsonian Libraries. It’s not surprising that a museum as vast as Washington, D.C.’s Smithsonian would also contain libraries. And just as the museum side of the Smithsonian has several distinct areas of specialization, so do its libraries:

The Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum Library contains 60,000 volumes and hundreds of thousands of d on textiles, wall coverings, furniture, ceramics, jewelry, and other decorative objects.

The Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology has 25,000 rare books including items from Galileo, Kepler, Euclid, Descartes, and Aristotle.

The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Library have 80,000 monograph titles devoted to Asian art.

The Joseph F. Cullman Library of Natural History has 10,000 volumes published before 1840 on all aspects of natural history.

The National Air and Space Museum has nearly 30,000 books focused on flight and space exploration history and science.

The National Museum of American History Library has items related to the social and cultural history of the U.S. and the international history of science and technology. Its collection includes nearly 300,000 trade catalogs representing 35,000 companies.

The National Postal Museum Library contains 5,000 books on the history and development of the U.S. Postal Service, photos, and stamp catalogs.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery Library contain exhibition catalogs, dissertations, magazines, and 150,000 books focused primarily on American art, history, and biography.

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The Morgan Library & Museum. New York City’s Morgan Museum got its start from the collections of Pierpont Morgan, who collected illuminated, historical, and literary manuscripts, early printed books, and old master drawings and prints. Over time, the library has added early children’s books, Americana music manuscripts, and other rare materials from the 20th century.

The Hagley Museum and Library. Wilmington, Delaware’s Hagley Museum is on the site of E.I. du Pont’s 1802 gunpowder works. Within the museum is a library focused on business and technology in America, including everything from 18th-century records to the development of modern telecommunications.

The Thomas Sappington House Museum. This historic home in a St. Louis suburb is on the National Register of Historic Places. The Library of Americana and Decorative Arts is on the grounds, an extensive book collection of Missouri and American history, antiques, and genealogy.

The Fenimore Art Museum. Located in Cooperstown, NY, the Fenimore is focused on American folk and fine art, American Indian art, and photography. The library portion of the museum focuses on these collections, as well as New York state, and includes rare books, manuscripts, archival collections, trade catalogs, broadsides, and other items.

The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Bentonville, AR’s Crystal Bridges Museum contains a library with more than 50,000 volumes on all facets of art history and American art, as well as personal papers and artist ephemera.