Auerbach Art Library
The Auerbach Art Library has extensive holdings of scholarly monographs, exhibition catalogues, fine art periodicals, museum bulletins, and auction catalogues. Ranked among the most comprehensive art historical collections in New England, the library’s mission is to acquire, organize, and preserve the bibliographic materials which support the curatorial research and exhibition activity of the museum staff and to provide reference resources to local scholars, college students, and the public.
The library is open to the public Wednesdays and Thursdays from 11 am to 5 pm.
Books and libraries have always been important components of the Wadsworth Atheneum. Museum founder Daniel Wadsworth envisioned the library 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 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 buildings 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 Auerbach Art Library Today
Today the Auerbach Art Library occupies three floors in the north wing of the original Wadsworth building. The collection consists of 40,000 acquired volumes. Additionally, it houses thousands of smaller catalogues and pamphlets in vertical files. The card catalogue was computerized in 2001.
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 furnishing 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. The ship models and paintings, selections from the Charles A. Goodwin Marine Collection, celebrate the maritime traditions of the Connecticut River.