Collection Development Policy

January 2014, Updated: June 2020

Collecting Mission of the Frick Art Reference Library

The Frick Art Reference Library aims to stay at the forefront of world-class art historical research. Its mission is to provide public access to research materials in any format and in any language for the study of art in the Western tradition from the fourth to the mid-twentieth century. Special emphasis is given to the history of art collecting and of individual works of art, including ownership, exhibition history, and attribution history.

The Library’s collections serve a broad, international research community, as well as supporting the scholarly programming of The Frick Collection.

Whenever possible, the Library enhances the historic strengths of its collections in the following categories: auction catalogs, exhibition catalogs (including pamphlets, checklists, and ephemera), and documented images of individual works of art (in its Photoarchive).

Core Subject Categories Collected Comprehensively Within the Library's Geographic and Chronological Parameters

  • Painting
  • Sculpture
  • Works on paper
  • Decorative arts, within the scope of The Frick Collection

Subject Categories Collected Selectively Within the Library's Geographic and Chronological Parameters

  • Museology, aesthetics, and art theory
  • Classical art, only if essential for the study of later art and not to be acquired by any of the Library’s NYARC (New York Art Resources Consortium) partners
  • Dress and costume, acquired if content supports the study of the fine arts
  • Media outside the Library’s collecting parameters such as ceramics, book illustration, posters, or photography (acquired to enable comprehensive study of a single artist’s oeuvre, e.g., ceramics by Picasso or photography by Moholy-Nagy), and materials on architecture (only if they include ornamentation with painting, sculpture, or stained glass, or if they are architectural designs by an artist who worked in all media, e.g., Michelangelo or Bernini)
  • For the Photoarchive only, acquisitions are limited to images of paintings, sculpture, and works on paper
  • Archival materials from art history scholars, dealers, and collectors

Core Formats Collected

  • Standard published monographs
  • Periodicals (online preferred)
  • Catalogues raisonnés
  • Exhibition catalogs
  • Auction catalogs
  • Ephemera

Formats Acquired Selectively

  • Online subscription databases
  • Collection catalogs
  • Dissertations
  • Websites
  • Antiquarian items
  • PDFs

Number of Copies

  • Only one copy of a publication is acquired unless it is a publication of The Frick Collection
  • Revised editions and subsequent translations into English are evaluated on a case-by-case basis

Changes in Policy Since 2000

  • In 2000, acquisitions of materials on clocks, watches, and horology was expanded
  • In 2009, current journal subscriptions were consolidated with NYARC partners
  • In 2010, the Library ceased acquiring books on illuminated manuscripts
  • In 2010, German porcelain was added as a subject area for the collections
  • In 2011, the Library's Photoarchive holdings of illuminated manuscripts were transferred to the Morgan Library and Museum
  • Periodicals from regional historical societies of the United States, previously collected to support research for the Frick’s photography campaigns, are no longer collected
  • In 2014, the Library instituted a policy to comprehensively collect catalogs of named U.S. collections of art, irrespective of chronological or subject scope
  • In 2014, via the NYARC Web Archiving Program, the Library began collecting, preserving, and providing access to archived websites of scholarly value
  • In 2016, the Library instituted a policy to add PDFs to formats acquired selectively
  • In 2020, the Library made changes to the collection development policy based on finances, staffing, and rising costs of materials and services


The Library seeks to acquire through a gift-depository program all publications issued by commercial entities. Individual donations are received in accordance with the Gift Policy.

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