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The Arts Libraries Endowment for the Smithsonian Libraries

“Peacocks” by Albert W. Heckman from the November 1919 issue of Keramic Studio. Courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art/National Portrait Gallery Library.

The Arts Libraries endowment was launched in 2009 with the proceeds of the Libraries’ 40th Anniversary Ruby Gala. It supports the five art libraries located in the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in New York, the Smithsonian American Art Museum/National Portrait Gallery, the National Museum of African Art, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and the Freer and Sackler Galleries.The Arts Libraries endowment supports books and journal acquisitions, art-related preservation activities, and other programmatic needs. Since its establishment, the endowment has helped to purchase over 100 books for the collection.

Smithsonian American Art and National Portrait Gallery Librarian Doug Litts says that “As the premier center for the study of American art and portraiture, having a broad collection of both historical works as well as the latest in visual arts scholarship is crucial in helping our curators and researchers explore the American experience.”

“The Art Work of Louis C. Tiffany.” Publisher Doubleday, Page, 1914, Garden City, NY. Courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art/National Portrait Gallery Library.

Other critical purchases have been made with this endowment Doug says: “With budgets tightening, our Arts Libraries Endowment has been essential in enabling us to purchase the material needed to support research and programming. The Endowment has enabled me to get important catalogues raisonnés of American artists, add biographies ranging from George Washington to Josephine Baker, and to fill gaps where important historical works were needed. The Endowment also funded the purchase of an artists’ book which is an artwork in its own right.”

Without this important endowment for the arts, scholastic work at the Smithsonian might not be the same for our curatorial staff: “Through the Art libraries Endowment the library’s collection has been enriched and research in American art and portraiture has been significantly strengthened,” says Doug.