Shortly after opening its doors in 1961, the Amon Carter Museum of American Art quickly oriented itself as an institution with a strong commitment to education and research, and the library was established as an integral part of carrying out those goals. Just as Amon G. Carter's (1879-1955) collection of Frederic Remington and Charles Russell’s art forms the basis of the museum’s art collection, his collection of books on the history and art of the western frontier provided the germination for the library’s collection. Over the years, this core collection grew in response to the art collecting, publication, and exhibition activities at the museum and expanded to focus more broadly on American art. Though the library collection provides deep integration and support related to the museum’s art collections, it offers much more expansive coverage. Today the library has close to 140,000 items, offering scholars not only near-comprehensive coverage of its core topics of American art, photography, and visual history of the West, but also strong support for American studies research topics. This aspect of the collection includes an array of material on American life that serves to contextualize and broaden understanding of the art produced in and related to the United States.
The library’s collection of rare and illustrated books, journals, and portfolios support research inquiries on a range of topics in American art and history and equally to topics in the history of book illustration. Items in these collections often dovetail with related objects in the museum’s art collection, giving a scholar the ability to analyze the full range of an artist’s work. Much of the rare books collection focuses on imprints from the nineteenth century, many of which are fundamental titles in the history of the early American landscape, natural history, and indigenous people. Much of this material relates to early discovery, exploration and settlement of the western parts of the country, representing the work of artists-explorers who created the earliest depictions of this region. The library also collects fine illustrated books as a genre that includes a number of literatures ranging from fiction to the contemporary photobook. Across these special collections, many of these items contain original artwork in the form of prints (often with hand-coloring) or photographs, qualifying them as works of art in their own right.
Buoying these collections, the library’s 300 linear feet of printed ephemera on American artists, photographers, collectors, museums, galleries, and subjects provides even deeper research potential. Often this material is the only documentation of an artist’s work or of an exhibition with scarce institutional holdings. A collection of auction catalogs (ca. 10,000) focusing on American sales rounds out a scholar’s ability to do object research.
One of the library’s cornerstone collections is the Archives of American Art (AAA) on microfilm that the museum acquired in 2003. Offering access to about fifteen million primary documents, this resource is unrivaled in its coverage of the development of art in the United States. As an associated research center, the museum is strategically located to complement other AAA locations on the east and west coasts. The library also offers extensive holdings of nineteenth century newspapers primarily associated with towns situated along the routes of western settlement that serve as important documents for western historians. Other special microform holdings include the Knoedler Library on Microfiche (art auction and exhibition catalogs), New York Public Library Artists File, New York Public Library Print File, Early American Book and Pamphlets in the Field of Art & Architecture, History of Photography (periodicals only), Western Americana: Frontier History of the Trans-Mississippi West, 1550-1900, Texas as Province and Republic, 1795-1845, and American City Directories Through 1860.
Notable special archival collections include the papers of Laura Gilpin, Elliot Porter, Erwin Smith, and Karl Struss. In the cases of Gilpin, Porter, and Smith, the main library incorporates each artists’ personal library. The archives also houses the archives of the Roman Bronze Works foundry.
Library Reading Room Public Hours
Wednesday: 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Thursday: 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
Friday: 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Saturday: 11 a.m.-4 p.m., September through May
Other times by appointment
Public tours on the third Saturday of the month, September through May, 3:00-3:30 p.m.
The collections can be searched via the shared catalog of the Cultural District Library Consortium, which also provides access to the library collections of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas, the Kimbell Art Museum, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, and the Cowgirl Museum Hall of Fame. The library’s collections can also be accessed via WorldCat Local. The library is a member of the OCLC Research Library Partnership and participates in its SHARES interlibrary loan program.
The library and archives have 6,000 square feet of floor space and 10,600 linear feet of storage, along with capacity for storing 322,000 pieces of microfiche and 22,000 pieces of microfilm.