Birkbeck Library | Subject guides | School of Arts | History of Art | Art History Libraries in London
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Art History Libraries in London

This guide is produced by the Library Committee on the History of Art, a body of representatives from libraries and institutions in the London area with an interest in the study of art history. It lists libraries in the London area with sizeable or specialist materials relating to the history of art. It provides information about each library's location, the type of collection, linking through to web sites where up-to-date information can be be gleaned about opening times and admission procedures and to online catalogues where available.

Please note: access to electronic databases is governed by institutional licences, usually restricting access to certain categories of users.

The following collections can be found in this guide. Please select the entry you want:

For suggestions or comments about these pages please email Aubrey Greenwood at

Last updated 13/07/07

Barbican Library (Corporation of London Libraries) 

Barbican Centre, EC2Y 8DS
Tel: 020-7638 0569  Fax: 020-7638 2249

Arts Library consists primarily of individual monographs covering: 1) historical, geographical and critical treatments, 2) particular artists and schools, 3) manuals. No catalogue raisonnes, exhibition or sales catalogues, except where they represent the only significant monograph available on the subject. Barbican Art Gallery catalogues are held. Also collections covering cinema and theatre.

Membership of the Library primarily for those who live, work or study in the City, but current members of other UK public libraries may also apply.

Barbican library web site

Barbican catalogue


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Battersea Reference Library: (Borough of Wandsworth Public Libraries)

Altenburg Gardens, SW11 1JQ
Tel: 020-8871 7467 Fax: 020-7978 4376

Special collection of architecture books published before 1976; Library ticket issued by Wandsworth Public Libraries entitles students to borrow from the collection.

Battersea library opening hours

Battersea library catalogue

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Birkbeck College Library (University of London)

Malet Street, WC1E 7HX
Tel: 020-7631 6239  Fax: 020-7631 6066  Email:

The collection of art and film studies materials has been developed to meet the teaching needs of Birkbeck's School of History of Art, Film and Visual Media. It includes the Peter Murray bequest of books specialising in Italian and English art and architecture.

Full details of the Library's access policy are on the web site.

Birkbeck College library web site

Birkbeck College library catalogue

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The British Architectural Library

Royal Institute of British Architects, 66 Portland Place, W1N 4AD
Tel: 020-7580 5533 (Switchboard) Fax: 020-7631 1802

Members information line: 020-7307 3600
Library information line: 020-7307 3882
Public information line: 0906-302 0400*

* Calls charged at 50p per minute.

Comprehensive library on all aspects of architecture. Open for reference to the general public on production of proof of identity, which must contain a photograph, eg. passport, driving  licence, student ID card.

British Architectural library web site

British Architectural library catalogue

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The British Library

SwitchBoard: +44 (00870 444 1500)

Reader Admissions Office
96 Euston Road, NW1 2DB
Tel: 020-7412 7677 Fax: 020-7412 7794  Email:

Information about admission to the St Pancras reading rooms

Reader Services Enquiries (catalogue checks, advance orders etc.)
Tel: 020-7412 7676
Fax: 020-7412 7609
Textphone: 020 7387 0649  

British Library Newspapers
Colindale Avenue ,  London  NW9 5HE
Tel: 020 7412 7353
Fax: 020 7412 7379

Admission to the Newspaper Reading Rooms is by reader pass; either a Newspaper reader pass or a British Library photographic reader pass, as issued by Reader Admissions at the British Library, St Pancras.

BL web site

BL catalogue

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Courtauld Institute of Art Library (University of London)

Somerset House, Strand WC2R 0RN
Tel: 020-7848 2701 Fax: 020-7848 2887 Email:

Access is granted to currently registered university students on presentation of satisfactory documentation and/or ID, and will normally be for material for individual research not easily available elsewhere. (We cannot provide taught-course materials for visitors; these should be sought in the relevant home libraries.) Seating is limited: please phone or write before coming to the Library in person.

Good general art-historical collection: fine arts (not design, or decorative or applied arts) in Europe and the European tradition, classical to contemporary, with much foreign language material. The Institute also houses the Witt and Conway Photographic Collections.

Courtauld library web site

Courtauld library catalogue

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Goldsmiths' College Information Services (University of London)

Lewisham Way, SE14 6NW
Tel: 020-7919 7166 Fax: 020-7919 7165

A collection basically designed for practising artists and therefore strong on recent art. The Library contains a fast-growing collection of material on video-cassette - only available to external users during vacations and by prior arrangement.

Goldsmiths' library web site

Goldsmiths' library catalogue

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Institute of International Visual Arts Library

6-8 Standard Place, Rivington Street, London EC2A 3BE
Tel: 020-7729 9616 Fax: 020-7729 9509 Email:

Up-to-date collection of monographs, catalogues, periodicals, slides and other media on contemporary arts and cultural studies. The focus is on Africa, Asia, Latin America and the work of British artists from different cultural backgrounds. The Library is open to the public by appointment and is for reference only. A scale of charges operates for all users (nominal charge for students). Detailed information on using the Library and a full list of periodicals are available from the web site.

Institute of International Visual Arts library's web site.

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Kingston University Library

Knights Park, Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, KT1 2QJ
Tel: 020 8547 7057  Fax. 020 8547 8039

The Library has a very good general collection covering all subject fields but focusing on art, design, architecture and surveying. There is a special collection of art and design material including pop-up books, medical drawings, typography, illustration, fashion, building construction, architecture, world trade fairs, interior design, furniture, painting, literature, prints, textile and wallpaper designs, ornament and decorative wrought iron.
The Library is open to the public for reference purposes only.

Kingston University library web site

Kingston University library catalogue

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The London Library

14 St James's Square, SW1Y 4LG
Tel: 020-7930 7705
(Book enquiries: 020-7766 4747) Fax: 020-7766 4766

Excellent general selection of English and foreign language books including older books. Open to subscribing members only (a reference is required). Facilities for help towards the subscription by grants from the London Library Trust, on application.

London Library web site

London Library catalogue


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Middlesex University Art & Design Learning Resources

Cat Hill, Barnet, Hertfordshire, EN4 8HT
Tel: 020-8411 5042  

Collection covers art & design in general, computing in art & design, and cultural theory. 

Subject areas: architecture, art history, ceramics, fashion, furniture, film, fine art, graphic design, jewellery, illustration, interior design, photography and textiles.

75,000 books; 900 periodical titles, of which 300 are current. 250,000 slides. 

Special collections: fashion, product information collection, ephemera, comics, videos/DVDs, and illustrations.

The Learning Resource Centre is open to the public for reference.

Middlesex University library web site

Middlesex University library catalogue

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National Art Library, Victoria and Albert Museum
Cromwell Road, South Kensington, SW7 2RL
Tel: 020 7942 2400 Fax: 020 7942 2401 Email:

The National Art Library holds the world's largest collection of documentation on art, craft and design. It is a reference library available to the public. All users are required to register on their first visit and to provide proof of their identity.

The Museum’s Archives, incorporating the Archive of Art and Design (AAD), the Beatrix Potter Collections and the V&A Archive, are located at Blythe House, 23 Blythe Road, W14 0QF, in Olympia. The AAD contains a growing corpus of archive groups providing primary source material for the study of art and design, particularly for the twentieth century. The Archives are open Tuesday to Friday 10.00-16.30, by appointment. Tel: 020-7603 1514 (AAD), 020-7602 0281 (Beatrix Potter Collections), 020-7602 5886 (V&A Archive); Fax: 020-7602 0980

National Art Library web site

National Art Library catalogue


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The National Gallery Library

Trafalgar Square, WC2N 5DN
Tel: 020-7747 2830 (Library) Email:

Opening hours:

Mon-Fri 10.00-17.30

The Library is primarily for the use of Gallery staff and the scope of the book stock reflects that of the Gallery's collection (European painting 1200-1900). Good collection of sales catalogues, private collection catalogues and early guidebooks.

The Library is open, by appointment (preferably in writing), to researchers unable to find the material they require elsewhere. Research files on each of the paintings in the Gallery's collection are located in the Library and can also be consulted by appointment. Please contact Jacqui McCormish or Susanna Avery-Quash on 020-7747 2440. The Gallery's archives are also administered by the Library. All users are required to register on their first visit and to provide proof of identity. Initial contact should be made with the Archivist on 020-7747 2831 (email:

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National Portrait Gallery: Heinz Archive and Library

St Martin's Place, London, WC2H 0HE
Tel: 020-7306 0055 ext.257    Fax: 020-7306 0056
Email enquiries:

- extensive files of engravings, photographs and other reproductions of British portraits held in collections world-wide, arranged by sitter and artist.

- records of the Primary Collection of portraits

- Gallery's muniments

- library collection: 35,000 books, catalogues and periodicals; special collections include the Scharf Library, artists' sitter, account and sketch books, research papers on British portraiture.

Facilities: black and white photocopier. No photography permitted. 

Library web site 

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Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art Library and Archive

16 Bedford Square, London WC1B 3JA
Tel: 020-7580 0311  Fax:020-7636 6730  Email:

The Centre’s Library consists of c.13,000 books and exhibition catalogues, and c.3,500 auction catalogues covering British art and architecture from 1500-1950. There is a Photographic archive of over 80,000 black and white photographs of British paintings, sculpture, drawings and prints. The Centre also holds the working papers of various art historians: the Brinsley Ford Archive of British and Irish Travellers to Italy in the 18th century; Robert Raines’ papers relating to foreign artists working in England in the first half of the 18th century; the Gainsborough photographic archive of John Hayes; and the collection of photographs of British paintings amassed by Sir Ellis Waterhouse.The Library and Archive are open to scholars and research students. It is necessary to make a prior appointment as the Library is often used for lectures and conferences.

Library web site

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Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art Library

The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), the University of London, the British Museum and the protection nominees of the Percival David Foundation are collaborating to enable this collection of world-renowned Chinese ceramics to be presented to the public in a purpose-built special new gallery at the British Museum from 2009, to be open 7 days a week.

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Queen Mary Library (University of London)

Mile End Road, E1 4NS
Tel: 020-7775 3327 Fax: 020-8981 0028

Comparatively small but useful collection of art history books.

Library web site

QM library catalogue

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Royal Academy of Arts Library

Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, W1V 0DS
Tel: 020 7300 5737 Fax: 020 7300 5765

Opening hours:

Tue-Fri 10.00-13.00, 14.00-17.00

The Library is open to bona fide researchers by prior appointment. We are also able to answer enquiries by post, telephone and email. The library catalogue is not yet searchable online, but there is a page dedicated to the library on the RA's website.

The Library of the Royal Academy of Arts exists primarily to serve the needs of the Members, students and staff of the institution. In fulfilling this role it has built up significant specialist collections of books and other materials, including archives, prints, drawings and photographs, that illuminate many aspects of the history of British art since the foundation of the Academy in 1768. The Book Collections are divided as follows:

BRITISH ART REFERENCE COLLECTION -Comprising about 25,000 volumes. Includes standard reference books on British art and artists, with particular concentration on the life and work of Royal Academy members; the evolution and reception of the fine arts in Britain since the mid-18th Century; and the contribution of British artists to the arts of the book.

HISTORIC BOOKS COLLECTION - Comprising about 10,000 volumes printed before 1871. As the oldest fine art's institution in Britain, the Academy holds an important collection of historically significant books relating to its primary function as a school of art. The Historic Book Collection constitutes a unique record of the teaching philosophy of successive generations of Britain's leading artists. It includes many rare titles reproducing the masterpieces of medieval and post-renaissance European art and architecture; detailed archaeological surveys of the civilisations of ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt; volumes of engravings recording civil, military and religious festivals, ceremonies and costume; and original editions of virtually all the early treatises on painting, drawing, sculpture, architecture, printmaking, anatomy, perspective, colour theory, art collecting and connoisseurship.

ILLUSTRATED BOOK COLLECTION - A great many British artists, including numerous members of the Royal Academy, have worked at some point in their careers as book illustrators and/or designers. To highlight the contribution of these artists to a genre that still touches virtually everyone from the cradle to the grave, a special collection of British illustrated books is currently being formed, with particular emphasis on work produced by artists in response to a publisher's commission.

Library web site

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The Royal Asiatic Society

60 Queens Gardens, W2 3AF
Tel: 020-7724 4741 Fax: 020-7706 4008

Substantial resources in Asian art, especially 19th century India and S.E. Asia and Ethiopia. Occasional reference use without appointment; lending only to fellows. Reference use for research students and some undergraduates working in specialised fields.

Web site

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Royal College of Art Library

Kensington Gore, SW7 2EU
Tel: 020-7590 4444 Fax: 020-7590 4500

General art library, and special collection on all aspects of colour.

RCA library web site

RCA library catalogue

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School of Oriental and African Studies Library (University of London)

Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, WC1H 0XG
Tel: 020-7898 4163 (for catalogue and general enquiries) Tel: 020-7898 4172 (Art Office) Fax: 020-7898 4159 Email:

Excellent collection of Asian and African art books and periodicals. No charge is made for reference use by members of the University of London. Day passes are issued to members of the UK Higher Education community and other private researchers for reference use on production of proof of identity (maximum of 5 day passes in any 12 month period). Click here for further details about admission. The Library is a member of UK Libraries Plus, M25 Consortium, CURL and RLG.

Library web site.

Library catalogue.

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Senate House Library, University of London

Senate House, Malet Street, WC1E 7HU
Tel: 020-7862 8561 Fax: 020-7862 8480

Collection on all aspects of the field intended, in the main, to meet the needs of undergraduates. Some research provision in the applied arts. There is a significant collection on medieval illuminated manuscripts. There is also good coverage on American and Latin American art in those subject collections. Most books (but no periodicals) may be borrowed.

Membership is available without personal charge to all staff and registered students of the University of London. For information about conditions of access for other users consult the Library's web site.

Library web site

Library catalogue

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The Society of Antiquaries of London Library

Burlington House, Piccadilly, W1V 0HS
Tel: 020-7479 7084 Fax: 020-7287 6967

Opening hours:

Mon-Fri 10.00-17.00

CLOSED for a period in the summer.

Comprehensive library on British archaeology and a fine collection on pre-20th century decorative art and architecture. Admission on production of a letter from tutor.

Web site

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The Tate Library & Archive collections (Hyman Kreitman Research Centre)

Millbank, SW1P 4RG
Tel: 020-7887 8838 Fax: 020-7887 8007

Museum library, established 1950's. The areas of art covered by the Tate Gallery: British art from the Renaissance onwards and international twentieth century art. Museum management, curatorship and conservation.

Open to researchers unable to find material they require elsewhere, by appointment; reference only; mainly closed access.

Web site

Online catalogues

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Textile Conservation Centre

Karen Finch Library and Reference Collection
Apartment 22, Hampton Court Palace, East Molesey, Surrey KT8 9AU
Tel: 020-8977 4943  Fax: 020-8977 9081 Email:

This is a small research Library which focuses on all aspects of textile conservation. The Library is for reference only. Please telephone the Librarian to discuss your requirements or to make an appointment to visit.

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University College London Library (University of London)

Gower Street, WC1E 6BT
Tel: 020-7679 7792; 020-7679 7793 (enquiry desk - arts library)

Teaching and research collection of fine art, history of art, critical theory, theatre design, decorative art, film and photography books and journals, incorporating the Slade School of Fine Art Reference Library. Special collection of Little Magazines (by appointment only).

Admission on presentation of identification; borrowing for approved intercollegiate students with Library cards only. Readers need to arrive before 18.30 to gain evening admission, and to apply for a Library ticket for Saturday before 18.30 Mon-Fri.

Library web site

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University of East London

Docklands Library & Learning Centre, University Way, London, E16 2RD
Tel: 0208 223 3434

General Art & Design library supporting courses in Fine Art (Painting, Printmaking, Sculpture and Combined Media), Textiles, Visual Communication (Graphics, Illustration and Photography) and Visual Theories (Art, Design, and Film History).

Students may use the Library for reference only, unless members of the UK Libraries Plus scheme. Access to the building is restricted, so those outside the University of East London should telephone first.

Library web site

Library catalogue

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University of the Arts - Chelsea

16 John Islip Street, London, SW1P 4JP (main entrance in Atterbury Street)
Tel: 020-7514 7800 Fax: 020-7514 7785

Special art-historical collection for the period 1850 to the present day. Comprehensive runs of contemporary art periodicals and contemporary exhibition catalogues from USA and Europe. Artists' books, Black British Art Archive. Other archival materials: Schwitters (Lords Gallery), Women's International Art Club.

Students may use the Library to consult materials unavailable elsewhere, but must make a prior appointment before using the Library. Photocopier facilities are available.

Chelsea College of Art & Design web site

Chelsea College of Art & Design library catalogue

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University of the Arts - London College of Communication

Elephant and Castle, SE1 6SB
Tel: 020-7514 6527 Fax: 020-7514 6597

Large collection of art books, including all aspects of fine art, graphic design, typography, design, and art history. There is an Historical Printing collection which includes examples of the earliest printed works through to current limited editions, designer books and private press works.The Library subscribes to over 450 current magazine titles, about half of which cover the arts.The Library has a small collection of slides of which a large proportion are relevant to the fields of art and design. There are also poster, illustration, printed ephemera and calendar collections.

London College of Communication library web site

London College of Communication library catalogue

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University of the Arts - Wimbledon

Merton Hall Road, SW19 3QA
Tel: 020-8408 5027 Fax: 020-8408 5050

General art-historical collections, together with specialist collections on theatre design, scenography, and costume history.

Wimbledon College of Art library web site

Wimbledon College of Art library catalogue

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University of Westminster

Learning Resources Centre, Harrow Campus, Watford Road, Harrow, Middx, HA1 3TP
Telephone: 0207 911 5885 Fax: 0207 911 5952

Books, exhibition catalogues and periodicals supporting a range of UG and PG courses run by the School of Communication and Creative Industries. Subjects covered include visual theory, mixed media, ceramics, fashion, photography, film, illustration, and graphic design. 

Special collections: slides, videos/dvds, illustrations and trade literature. 

The Centre also houses the Panchayat library and archive representing contemporary artists, with a particular focus on cultural identity, as well as other issues. There are books, exhibition catalogues, journals, videos, slides and information files.

The University is a member of both the UK Libraries Plus and M25 Consortium.

Library web site

Library catalogue

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University of Westminster

Marylebone Campus Library, 35 Marylebone Road, London, NW1 5LS
Telephone: 0207 911 5000 ext 3212   Fax: 0207 911 5058

Books and journals for undergraduate, postgraduate and professional courses run by the Department of Architecture within the School of Architecture and Built Environment. Subjects covered include digital imaging, landscape, architectural design, interior design, urban design, and structures. 

The Library has special collections in maps and slides relevant to the study of architecture in the University of Westminster, and the research interests of academic staff. 

The University is a member of both the UK Libraries Plus and M25 Consortium.

Library web site

Library catalogue 

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Victoria Library (Westminster City Libraries)

160 Buckingham Palace Road, SW1W 9UD
Tel: 020-7641 1300

Opening hours:

Mon 9.30-20.00
Tues, Wed, Thurs 9.30-19.00
Fri 09.30-19.00
Sat 09.30-17.00

Large lending collection of works on the fine arts. To join Westminster Libraries you will need to show proof of your name and current address such as a recent gas or electricity bill, rent book, child benefit book, pension book, current driving licence, a recent bank/credit card statement, building society book, or a Westminster Rescard.

Web site

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The Wallace Collection Library

Hertford House
Manchester Square

The Library's collection reflects the Museum's collection. Its strengths are: Old Master Paintings, French Painting from the 17th century to the mid-nineteenth century, French Decorative Arts 17th and 18th centuries, Sèvres Porcelain, French 18th century sculpture, Bronzes (Renaissance, Baroque, French 18th century), Arms and Armour, Majolica, Portrait Miniatures, Mediaeval and Renaissance Decorative Arts, History of Collecting. 

The Library's holdings are approximately 15,000 books, mostly shelved in curators' offices on the 2nd floor. Cataloguing of books acquired before 2000 began, retrospectively, in July 2004 and it is ongoing. If you cannot find what you are looking for in our catalogue, and you believe that it is something that the Library is likely to have, please contact the Assistant Librarian (, 020 - 7563 9536), who will be happy to help.

 The Library is for reference only and open by appointment, Tuesday to Friday,  10:00-17:00 . 

To make an appointment, please contact the Librarian (, 020 - 7563 9528).

Wallace Collection library catalogue

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Warburg Institute Library (University of London)

Woburn Square, WC1H 0AB
Tel: 020-7862 8949  Fax: 020-7436 2852

Extensive interdisciplinary research library specialising in cultural and intellectual history with particular reference to the classical tradition. Approx. 330,000 vols and 3,000 periodical titles (about half are current), of which about a quarter is concerned with art and art history. Areas of special strength are: classical, medieval and Byzantine art, manuscript illumination, iconography, aesthetics, German and Italian art.

The Library has the Cicognara Library on fiche. The Institute also houses a Photographic Collection of over 300,000 items.

Access is normally restricted to postgraduates. A letter of introduction is required.

Warburg Institute library web site

Warburg Institute library catalogue

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Westminster Reference Library, Art and Design Library

(Westminster Libraries and Archives)
St Martin's Street, WC2H 7HP
Tel: 020-7641 1300 (ask for the Art & Design Library)  Fax: 020-7641 4606

The largest, most accessible public art & design reference library in the London area, with a broad range of books and periodicals (approx. 40,000 volumes). Open to everyone for reference only, as a library of first resort for art research. Library also contains extensive general reference and performing arts collections. Black & white and colour photocopying available. Free internet access. Most material is currently not on open access but is rapidly retrievable. Some older periodical runs are in store, in which case, please order at least a day in advance. Search Westminster's book and periodical holdings catalogues at

The Preston Blake Collection on William Blake, the Waring & Gillow archives and other primary resources are housed at the City of Westminster Archives Centre (020-7641-5180).

Westminster Libraries web site

Westminster Archives web site

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Wimbledon College of Art Library: University of the Arts

Merton Hall Road, SW19 3QA
Tel: 020-8408 5027 Fax: 020-8408 5050

General art-historical collections, together with specialist collections on theatre design, scenography, and costume history.

Wimbledon College of Art library web site

Wimbledon College of Art library catalogue

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