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The founders of the museum had the vision to include a library at the center of the institution’s intellectual life, and plans for a library of 10,000 volumes were under way when the museum was incorporated in 1913. Upon opening in June 1916, several notable collections of books related to the museum’s collection of objects had been acquired. Among these were J. Homer Wade’s donation to complement the Wilson lace collection and the Macomber collection of books on arms and armor given by Mr. and Mrs. John L. Severance. In 1939, upon the death of Julia Morgan Marlatt, the library received more than 300 finely printed books, including a complete set of works printed by William Morris at the Kelmscott Press.
Demand for library resources and services grew rapidly, and by the early 1950s the book collection had grown to more than 37,000 volumes and the photograph collection to nearly 47,000 images. In 1956 Leonard C. Hanna bequeathed a substantial endowment to the museum, and the library was able to increase its collections at an unprecedented rate, adding scholarly volumes as they became available, and moving to new quarters in the expanded museum. In 1967 the joint program in art history with Western Reserve University was inaugurated with graduate-level courses, and the library began serving faculty and students in the program.
During this time the library began participating in technology-based solutions for access to information and shared cataloging of materials. In 1979 the library joined the Research Libraries Information Network (RLIN) in order to benefit from a national database of bibliographic information. The library, in cooperation with libraries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago, developed a computerized union catalog of art auction sales catalogues for RLIN.
Despite the existence of satellite libraries in the curatorial and conservation departments, the stack space for the now 100,000-volume collection was exhausted in 1979. In 1983 a third addition to the museum provided library stacks with room for 20 years of collection growth. The new library was named in honor of Jane Taft Ingalls and Louise Harkness Ingalls.
As the collection and its use continued to increase, the need for automation became clear. In 1986 the Reinberger Foundation provided significant funding for an integrated library system with a computerized card catalog.
As part of the museum’s renovation and expansion project, the Ingalls Library moved to another new home in 2006. The new library facility has been planned with the technological and spatial flexibility necessary to accommodate the growing and increasingly diverse community of library patrons.
In conjunction with the move into the new facility, the library has undertaken a series of technology-based projects designed to facilitate research. The Ingalls Library has implemented a new integrated library system to support all forms of media and allow seamless searching across local, national, and international library catalogs and databases. The library collections have been reclassified according to the Library of Congress Classification System, a nationally and internationally recognized standard. The collection of almost 500,000 slides has been digitized with funds provided in part by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education under the Fund for the Improvement of Education. Finally, a new security and inventory system using state-of-the-art RFID (radio frequency identification) technology to control and safeguard the library collections has been implemented.
The founders’ vision of a museum library has been sustained by the institution to the current day. We are proud of where we have been and excited for the future as the library continues to support the museum’s mission and to provide access to a world-class collection of research materials for patrons locally, nationwide, and abroad.