Since the 1920s, the Library has systematically purchased photographs from American and European photographers and museums, often through the agency of scholars and other art professionals including Clotilde Brière-Mismé in Paris and José Gudiol in Barcelona. Current photograph and digital image acquisitions are determined by analyzing new research trends and artists and collections not yet represented in the Photoarchive's holdings. Often these acquisitions are from independent photographers and small museums whose collections may never be published. The Photoarchive also receives thousands of photographs and digital images from donors every year.
More than 200,000 photographs have been acquired through subscriptions to the Gernsheim Corpus Photographicum of Drawings; the Courtauld Institute of Art Photographic Survey, the latter founded in the 1950s in conjunction with the Library; and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery Photographic Survey, which the Library sponsored for many years. In recognition of the Library's contribution to the scholarly community, many museums, including the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and The Art Institute of Chicago, have donated photographs and digital images. In 2001, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, gave the Library its entire photoarchive of 47,000 photographs of works of art by more than 5,000 artists.
A number of scholars have given photographs and research documentation to the Library over the years, including Everett Fahy, Millard Meiss, Juliette Tomlinson, and Federico Zeri. In 2009 alone, the Library received more than 1,500 digital files from independent researchers.
Thousands of photographs and color transparencies donated by art galleries and dealers document works of art as they passed through the twentieth-century art market, often in transit from one private collection to another. These dealers include Coe Kerr Gallery, Peter H. Davidson, R. Langton Douglas, Durand-Ruel Gallery, Erich Galleries, Ferargil Galleries, Daniel Grossman Gallery, Hirschl & Adler Galleries, Kennedy Galleries, Knoedler & Company, Milch Galleries, Frederick G. Schab, Schaeffer Galleries, and Shepherd Gallery.