The Art Department maintains a comprehensive reference and circulating collection of over 60,000 books on the fine arts, architecture, garden design, interior design, fashion, graphic arts, crafts, collectibles, and photography. Books are available for loan on all these topics, including a large circulating collection of instructional books on all aspects of arts and crafts, including drawing, painting, sculpture, knitting, crochet, embroidery, papercrafts and photography.
The private library of John Frederick Lewis (1860-1932), an important Philadelphia collector and bibliophile, comprised of books on the arts from the 17th century until the early 20th Century is housed at the Regional Operations Center and available through the Art Department.
Take a video tour of the Art Department with a closer look at some materials from its vault.
The Art Department also holds an extensive selection of files on artists, architects, designers and collectors, and the art & architecture of Philadelphia. These include article clippings, gallery announcements, artist statements, exhibition catalogs, and other ephemera related to artists and art subjects. Please consult Art Department librarians for access.
A broad selection of databases is available to all Free Library patrons. The following have a close focus on art and architecture subjects:
- Art Full Text: A comprehensive resource for art information featuring full-text articles dating back to 1995, high-quality indexing and abstracting dating as far back as 1984 as well as abstracting of over 13,000 art dissertations. Available to: All Free Library locations and online with your library card.
- Art Index Retrospective 1920-1984: Bibliographic database that cumulates citations to Art Index volumes 1-32 of the printed index published between 1929-1984. Available to: All Free Library locations and online with your library card.
- AskART: Extensive information about over 120,000 artists from around the world, including auction results and records, artwork prices, appraisers, signatures and artist biographies.. Available to: All Free Library locations. Please consult Art Department librarians for full access.
- JSTOR: Full text database of hundreds of academic journals, including 170 titles covering Art & Art History and 42 titles covering Architecture & Architectural History. *Chrome browser not supported. Available to: All Free Library locations and online with your library card.
- Philadelphia Architects and Buildings: database that provides authoritative information on three centuries of Philadelphia buildings and designers, incorporating data and images from the collections of more than 25 Philadelphia-area repositories. Available to: All Free Library locations and online. Please consult Art Department librarians for full access.
The Art Department currently subscribes to over 70 periodicals and retains their majority for public reference use.
Please consult Art Department librarians for access to current and recent issues of periodicals that are not on the magazine rack.
Among these is small selection of popular magazines that are available to borrow for up to three weeks and renewed. Current titles are:
Art in America
Martha Stewart Living
This Old House.
Exhibitions and workshops
Exhibitions of work by local artist groups or material from our collections are always on display in our hallway gallery. The Art Department regularly hosts workshops with a focus on the book arts and an annual artists' book fair in partnership with the Philadelphia Center for the Book.
Are you an educator interested in bringing a class to the Art Department? You may contact us in advance by emailing ErefArt@freelibrary.org and let us know what kinds of library materials would best support your course and we will work with you to help you gather books and other materials on a given subject. Take a look at our growing number of topical book lists:
Our online book and art making club series started meeting in May 2020 around changing topics. Art instructors may be interested in using our club summaries, linked below, as resources for their virtual classrooms.
The University of the Arts here in Philadelphia is a member of the Teaching with Primary Sources (TPS) Educational Consortium and they have created several guides that teachers can use to prepare a class using digital resources made available by the Library of Congress along with physical materials in Philadelphia libraries and archives. They can be browsed and freely downloaded from the TPS-UArts site:
Pictures Worth Reading: A Teacher's Guide to Comics was developed in collaboration with the Art Department here at the Parkway Central Library. Take a look and contact us if you would like to bring your class and want us to gather these materials in advance for you:
Email eRefArt@freelibrary.org for research or information requests. Sign up from the blue newsletter icon above to receive monthly email notifications of Art Department events.