Library reading room

Spencer Art Reference Library

Spencer Art Reference Library Hours
Tues, By Appointment
Wed, 10 a.m.—5 p.m.
Thur/Fri, 10 a.m.—6 p.m.
Sat/Sun, 1 p.m.—4 p.m.

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The Spencer Art Reference Library at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art welcomes everyone interested in studying the history of the visual arts. The Library’s encyclopedic collections and information services provide an extensive research resource in the Kansas City and Midwestern region.

The Spencer Library is the only place you need to go for art related resources, whether you want to keep up with the newest art periodicals, peruse the latest exhibition catalogs and Museum publications or dig deeper into a specific collection or work of art. Library staff is here to assist you with all of these areas of interest and more.

The library’s collections of printed materials in ten languages include over 180,000 volumes, comprised of books, exhibition catalogs, auction catalogs, theses and dissertations, and bound periodicals. The extensive collection also includes over 650 current periodical subscriptions, media, microforms, electronic resources and artist files. The holdings of the Spencer Art Reference Library are searchable in the Library Online Catalog.

Visitors to the library may also use the library’s online catalog to search the digital subscription resources. These resources include information from art encyclopedias, historic newspapers, full-text and indexed access to articles as well as art prices from art sales databases. Digital resources are searchable from any of the public computer stations available in the library reading room. Free Wi-Fi access is available for library visitors.

Located on the second floor of the Bloch Building the Spencer Art Reference Library was designed by award-winning architect Steven Holl. The Library Reading Room is free and open to the public. It features a browsing collection of 4,000 of the most frequently consulted reference works and publications; including catalogs of the Museum’s exhibitions dating back to 1933, a browsing collection of 250 select journals and magazines, newspapers, and current auction sales catalogs. All other materials are kept in closed stacks which library staff can retrieve upon request.

The Spencer Art Reference Library is a non-circulating collection where materials are used in the library’s reading room. Library researchers have access to a copier with copying and scanning capabilities.

Library staff members are happy to help you with your research and can provide introductions to available resources or topic specific research session tailored for individuals, groups or classes.

Contact us for more information about the reference library


The purpose of the Archives is to document the history and activities of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the Nelson Gallery Foundation, the William Rockhill Nelson Trust and other affiliated organizations. As a supplement to the official record, the Archives also collects the personal papers and manuscript material of former Museum staff and other individuals associated with the Museum.

Materials in the Museum Archives are available to the public by appointment only. Call 816.751.1354 to schedule an appointment.

Archives Hours
Tuesday–Friday, 8 a.m.—4 p.m.

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Visual Resources Library

The Slide/Visual Resources Library is available only to Museum staff, visiting Museum speakers and local academic faculty, and provides an encyclopedic image collection for lectures, presentations and research.

Visual Resources Library Hours
Tuesday–Friday, 10 a.m.—4 p.m.

Contact us for more information about the visual resources library

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Admission is FREE
Open Wednesday-Sunday
4525 Oak Street
Kansas City, MO 64111

Program Tickets: 816.751.1278
Wed, 10 am—5 pm
Thurs/Fri, 10 am—9 pm
Sat/Sun, 10 am—5 pm
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