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For more information or to ask a reference question, please fill out the Reference Questions form, or call 215-684-7650 or send an e-mail to .

Access to the Library is free. Visitors may request a Researcher’s Pass from the guard at the Perelman Building entrance.

Search Online: Library CatalogFinding AidsDatabases & IndexesAuction Resources

As one of the major art reference libraries in the United States, the Museum Library houses approximately 200,000 books, auction catalogues, and periodicals dating from the sixteenth century to the present. Reflecting the Museum's rich and distinctive collections, the Library's holdings focus on European, American, and Asian painting and sculpture; furniture and decorative arts; arms and armor; costume and textiles; prints, drawings, and photographs; and modern and contemporary art. The Library also subscribes to a growing collection of electronic resources, available on workstations in the Reading Room.

Library Installation

Rare Book
Written by Joseph Spence (English, 1699–1768) in 1747
Engraving by Louis-Philippe Boitard (French, died after 1770)
London: J. Dodsley, 1774
Philadelphia Museum of Art Library
Mythography: Sources for Classical Myth
September 22, 2015 - February 19, 2016
The inspirational power of the classic poems of Homer and his peers is such that their mythology and iconography have been represented in paintings and sculpture ever since. Over time, scholars altered these ideas, bringing to bear their preferences, perspectives, and agendas. Shown here are a selection of works from the 1300s through 1800s that shaped the popular imagination regarding the ancient gods and their interactions.

Heavily criticized by the church in late antiquity, Roman works such as Ovid’s Metamorphoses and Horace’s Odes and Ars Poetica saw renewed interest during the Middle Ages and became an important source for the visual arts of the Renaissance. These works were widely disseminated and translated by Christian scholars in the 1400s and 1500s, often accompanied by an imposing mass of commentary and annotation, sometimes even cut and rearranged.

Whether in the case of the later Greeks and Romans who sought deeper meaning in their traditional beliefs, or the Christians who distanced themselves from idolatry and paganism, scholars strove to recondition the pantheon of gods away from a strictly religious construct, into either an exaggerated account of historical events, an astronomical composition, or simply a vast web of moral allegories. The books displayed here are examples of this thematic refashioning.

The Library Reading Room, second floor, Perelman Building

Digital Collections

Ronaele Manor
The collection of heraldic stained glass at Ronaele Manor, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania :the residence of Mr. & Mrs. Fitz Eugene Dixon /described by F. Sydney Eden. -- London : Arden Press, 1927.
The Library is creating distinctive digital collections that provide access to its rare materials to support research and education at the Museum, to enhance scholarship worldwide, to increase access to its holdings, and to promote lifelong learning. Digitizing also aids in preservation by reducing the need for handling the originals. Scrapbooks from the Archives; rare art auction catalogs; books and ephemera on European and American decorative arts and arms and armor; and the Museum’s own publications are just some examples of the items that staff are digitizing and making freely available to all on the Internet Archive.

Browse our contributions to the Internet Archive.

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