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History of Art Research

rare booksThree key Penn Libraries for archives and special collections are the Kislak Center, the Museum Library, and the Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies

Special Collections

Penn Archives

Image of Fischer Fine Arts libraryThe Architectural Archives, located in the lower level of the Fisher Fine Arts Building, houses and preserves the works of over 400 designers from the 17th century to the present. By appointment only.



Image of the Penn Museum The Penn Museum Archives collects materials pertaining to archaeological expeditions around the world, the history of the Penn Museum, and the history of anthropology and archaeology.



Drawing of Fischer Fine Arts Library

The University Archives collects historically significant materials and documents recording the origins of the University, as well as resources from and about its students, faculty, staff, benefactors, alumni, and more.


Download the Society of American Archivists' Using Archives: A Guide to Effective Research.

Using Archives

Points to consider when doing archival research:

Time: Archival materials are typically stored in a secure manner that requires time and manpower to retrieve. Allow time to explore the records of an archive's holdings and for your requests to be processed. Additionally, you will have to work with the archive to determine a date and time to make your consultation (which will likely take place in a monitored space).

Finding Aids: Archives and special collections frequently create finding aids in order to provide a guide to the contents of a collection that has been processed. A finding aid usually describes how a collection has been organized into files and boxes, making their retrieval (and your request) easier for the institution to respond to your inquiries. Not all collections have finding aids, so you might need to reach out to the archivists for more information.

Handling: You will likely be required to register with an archive and provide proof of your identity for security reasons. In many cases you might be handling rare, fragile, and/or sensitive information, so staff might give you a brief overview of how to handle and photograph materials (if photography is permitted). Always be prepared with clean hands!