Art and Architecture Collection Development Policy

Bobst Library, New York University
Tom McNulty, Librarian for Fine Arts


Bobst Library's art collection supports undergraduate research in art history (including architecture and photography), as well as undergraduate and graduate studies in art education, studio art, art therapy, visual arts management and museum studies. Graduate School of Arts and Science fine arts programs are supported primarily by the Stephen Chan Library of Fine Arts, located at the Institute of Fine Arts (1 East 78th St.). Reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of much contemporary scholarship, Bobst's collections include materials relevant to the study of art collecting, the sociology and psychology of art, the economics of the arts, and a number of other emerging fields of study related to the arts.

The following programs, arranged by School, represent the primary audiences for Bobst Library's collection of fine arts materials:

College of Arts and Sciences

  • Art History B.A.

    Specializations include art history and urban planning. Focus on western European art and architecture; Some Asian and African Near Eastern art and architecture courses.

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

  • Museum Studies

    Certificate program leading to New York State Professional Certificate in Museum Studies.

School of Education

  • Art Education. B.S., M.A., Ph.D.
  • Art Therapy. M.A., Ph.D.
  • Decorative Arts. M.A.

    Specializations include folk art, costume studies, and art dealership and collecting.

  • Studio Art. B.S., M.A., D.A. degrees.

    Specializations include painting, sculpture, printmaking, video, computer art and photography.

  • Visual Arts Administration. M.A.

Tisch School of the Arts

  • Photography, B.F.A.

In addition to the programs identified above, fine arts materials are increasingly important to researchers in American Studies, comparative literature, anthropology, classics, Middle Eastern studies, philosophy and a number of other fields in the humanities and social sciences, and Bobst Library's collections are developed accordingly.


  1. Languages

    Primary language is English, but Italian, French, German, Spanish and Near Eastern language materials are acquired selectively.

  2. Geographical Areas

    Emphasis is on Western Europe, the United States, Latin America, Africa and the Near East. Representative works on the aesthetics and history of art of other areas are included; these secondary collections include East Asia, Oceania, and North America exclusive of the United States.

  3. Periods and Styles

    Works representing all time periods and styles are collected; reflecting the interest of a large portion of the community of fine arts researchers, nineteenth and twentieth century artists and movements are emphasized.

Types of Materials

  1. Included

    Monographs, monographic series, serials, newspapers, proceedings, facsimiles, reprints, microforms, audio-visual and electronic media (including electronic texts). Exhibition catalogues are acquired for textual and pictorial content. Catalogues raisonnes of individual artists' works are selectively acquired. Major art market reference works are acquired on a highly selective basis, as are technical manuals and guides for studio artists and photographers. Significant auction sales catalogues are very selectively acquired.

  2. Excluded

    Trade information, including auction sales catalogues, are excluded, as are individual reproductions and slides of works of art. Commercial art is not collected, although a core collection of design publications is maintained. Computer graphics titles are acquired but specific software manuals are excluded.

Strengths & Weaknesses of the Collection

  1. Architecture.

    Bobst's holdings are quite strong, particularly in architecture history, sociology of architecture, and vernacular architecture. Studies in contemporary architecture, as it relates to urban planning, are emphasized. Individuals architects' oeuvre catalogues are collected selectively, but the Library owns a good core collection which is supplemented by the very strong holdings of Cooper Union and Parsons School of Design.

    Since NYU does not offer architectural design courses or programs, technical materials related to building are not collected.

  2. Fine Arts.

    Bobst maintains a strong collection of art history materials. Over the past decade, exhibition catalogues have become increasingly scholarly and today represent primary source materials for the serious scholar; reflecting this trend, the Library acquires exhibition catalogues from major international museums with particular emphasis on exhibitions held in New York City.

    Artists' catalogues raisonnes provide invaluable information on individual artists' oeuvres; Bobst acquires new catalogues raisonnes selectively and is working to build the collection of these important resources retrospectively. Bobst relies upon other libraries, primarily Cooper Union and Parsons, to supplement its stock of catalogues raisonnes.

    Researchers are increasingly interested in the history of the decorative arts, and Bobst Library maintains a strong collection with particular emphasis on furniture, metalwork, glass and ceramics of the United States, Europe, and selectively of other regions of the world. The Library's folk art collection supports graduate study in this area, and through the years significant attention has been given to this often neglected area of material culture.

  3. Photography

    Bobst's holdings in photography are particularly strong. Individual photographers' catalogues -- both historical and contemporary -- are widely collected. In addition, Bobst maintains a good selection of technical manuals for students and faculty in departments offering practical courses in photography. Photography is increasingly viewed as an important source of information in a wide range of academic disciplines, and the Library's history of photography collection reflects this trend. In addition to 19th century photography books, Bobst has a microform collection of over 2,500 monographs and 50 serial titles relating to the history of photography dating from the 19th and very early 20th centuries.

  4. Graphic Design and other Practical Arts

    Bobst Library maintains only a rudimentary collection of commercial art titles, including reference works on the design of letterhead, business cards, direct mail brochures and other business-related items. The Library has recently stepped up its collection efforts in the area of computer-based graphics and design. Many technical handbooks and manuals are provided but specific software manuals are acquired only on a highly selective basis.

Other Resources

Bobst Library's holdings in the fine arts and architecture are supplemented by those of Cooper Union and Parsons School of Design; Cooper Union is particularly strong in architecture, while Parsons maintains extremely strong collections of materials covering all areas of design and a good core collection of fine arts materials. NYU Faculty and graduate students may also use the collections of the Institute of Fine Arts Library and the Conservation Center Library while others may consult items in these libraries only if they are not available in any of the downtown libraries.

New York abounds in world-class fine arts libraries, and many of these are members of the Research Libraries Group (RLG). As an RLG member, NYU's holdings are listed in RLIN, along with the holdings of the following major fine arts collections:

  • Columbia University
  • Brooklyn Museum
  • Frick Collection
  • Guggenheim Museum
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Museum of Modern Art
  • Pierpont Morgan Library

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