Shelf Life

In celebration of National Library Week, we are taking a tour of The Mildred R. and Frederick M. Mayer Library, the DMA’s art research library located on the second mezzanine level.

Established in 1936, the collection opened to the public in 1944, and over time has grown as an essential resource for use by DMA staff, docents, and the public.

Library at Fair Park, circa 1940s-1950s

In 1993, the Hamon Wing of the DMA opened and the library moved into its current space.

At the library’s entrance there is a display case used to highlight items from the library’s collection.

Currently in the display case is Temporada de lluvias: 360⁰ panoramas of the Maya lowlands by Phillip Hofstetter with poems by David Freidel. Three-foot-long pages reproduce photographs of ancient Maya ruins. The book is covered in Maya bark and banana leaf and bound with Maya sisal twine.

Entering the reading room, visitors sign in and can peruse new exhibition catalogues and art magazines, browse through reference books, or take a moment to reflect in one of the three alcoves with a view of the Fleischner Courtyard and downtown. This Webster’s unabridged dictionary from 1946 is very popular!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In the library you can view paintings on local subjects by Texas artists from the DMA’s collection, including Scene of Three Murders by Julie Bozzi, which is about three unrelated murders at the same location on the Trinity River, and the hyperrealist Looking North, Fort Worth 1999 by J.T. Grant, See all works on display in the library through the online collection.

Originally established from gifts and the purchase of 1,400 titles, today the library has over 100,000 volumes supporting research on all areas of the Museum’s encyclopedic art collection. The majority of the materials are stored in areas not open to the public. Here are a few examples of what you can request to view in the library:

Moveable stacks housing the library’s non-circulating collection.

With many rare items in the collection, one of the oldest and rarest books is a Bible in Latin published in 1526 with woodblock printed illustrations. Fewer than 20 other institutions in the world own this edition.

A few rare books from the Locked Case section of the library stacks.

The full title of this bible is Biblia cum concordantiis Veteris et Novi Testamenti et sacrorum canonum : necnon et additionibus in marginibus varietatis diversorum textuum : ac etiam canonibus antiquis quattuor Evangeliorum : novissime autem additae sunt concordantiae ex viginti libris Iosephi De antiquitatibus et Bello Iudaico excerptae que solerti cura nuperrime repurgata est et excusa : in qua pluribus scatebat mendis, published by [Lyons] : Venundatur Lugdun[um] in ædibus Iacobi Mareschal Prope Nostre Dame de Confort, 1526.

There are 20,000 vertical files on local and international, well-known and lesser-known artists. Artists files contain handwritten notes, resumes, clippings, photos, exhibition announcements, press release,s and other small ephemera compiled over the last 60 years.

Items from the artist file on Otis Dozier (1904-1987), a prominent Texas artist.

Though current issues of art magazines and auction catalogs are available in the Reading Room, there are approximately 350 serials and 20,000 auction catalogs dating back to 1945 also located in storage.

At the heart of the library, sometimes-unnoticed behind walls and desks are the keeper, organizers and preservers of the DMA’s extensive research collection. This small, dedicated band of librarians and catalogers serve over 4,000 patrons per year, including students working on research papers, area appraisers, scholars researching items in the DMA collection, and individuals who want to learn more about the artist in their personal collections.

Pictured here are not the current librarians, but the card catalog is still in the library.

Be sure to stop by and check out the Mayer Library.

Pauline Martin is the Assistant Librarian at the Dallas Museum of Art.


Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,358 other followers

Twitter Updates

Flickr Photo Stream

More Photos

%d bloggers like this: