Ten Must-See Craft Research Collections

Ten Must-See Craft Research Collections

Bienenstock Furniture Library

The Bienenstock Furniture Library in High Point, North Carolina 

Here at the American Craft Council Library, we pride ourselves on maintaining and continuously cultivating a unique collection of research materials on the history of contemporary craft in America. It's a big job, so thank goodness we're not alone in our mission to collect and share information on craft. We've got colleagues at other organizations across the country working towards the same goal.

In connection with the December/January 2014 issue of American Craft magazine on the subject of education, we're highlighting 10 must-see collections for information on contemporary craft. Each of the libraries and/or resource centers listed below are free and open to the public.

Bernice Bienenstock Furniture Library
High Point, North Carolina

Befittingly located in a historic colonial revival style house in the heart of High Point, North Carolina, the “furniture capital of the world,” the Bienenstock Furniture Library houses a remarkable collection of books and publications dating from 1640 through today on the history and design of furniture, textiles, interiors, and architecture. It is an excellent resource for scholars, students, collectors, and craft enthusiasts alike. 

Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center
Asheville, North Carolina  

Located in gorgeous downtown Asheville, North Carolina, the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center houses exhibitions and one-of-a-kind video archives and research materials documenting the teachers and students who, through their education there, went on to be leaders in the contemporary craft movement. Notable participants of Black Mountain College from the craft field include Anni Albers, Peter Voulkos, and Ruth Asawa. Through collaboration with the University of North Carolina at Asheville, many archival photographs and documents on Black Mountain College, its teachers, and its students are available online. 

Ceramics Research Center at the ASU Art Museum
Phoenix, Arizona

Scholar Susan Harnly Peterson and artists Gerry Williams and Ralph Bacerra, are just a few of the ceramic greats who have donated their collections to the Ceramics Research Center at the Arizona State University Art Museum. Housing more than 3,500 ceramic objects and 2,000 books and catalogs, the Ceramics Research Center also contains an extensive archive of photographs of artists including Shoji Hamada and Maria Martinez.

Craft in America Study Center
Los Angeles, California

Most craft enthusiasts are familiar with Craft in America due to its award winning PBS documentary series of the same name. But did you know it also has a collection of more than 1,000 books - as well as actual objects featured in the television series - available for browsing at its study center? If you find yourself in Los Angeles, this unique space, which also plays host to exhibitions, lectures, and workshops on various craft topics, is not to be missed. 

Hirsch Library at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Houston, Texas

With a collection of more than 140,000 volumes on the visual arts, including substantial resources on contemporary craft, there’s no shortage of materials to pore over in the Hirsch Library. However, the 2007 acquisition of the Garth Clark and Mark Del Vecchio Collection of modern ceramics, along with the collectors’ library of more than 2,500 books and periodicals, has made the Hirsch Library a go-to resource for information on both historic and contemporary ceramics. 

Julius Blum Library at the Metal Museum
Memphis, Tennessee

One of the best things about the Metal Museum library – in addition to its collection of more than 6,000 books, periodicals, folios, and 10,000 videos and images on metalwork and jewelry, is the library’s three-dimensional object collection. Likewise, in addition to industrial metalsmith Julius Blum’s personal collection, the library is home to the resource collections of the Artist-Blacksmiths' Association of North America and the Society of North American Goldsmiths.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art Libraries
Los Angeles, California

With regards to information on craft, the LACMA collections stand out in a sea of fine art libraries. With the major gift of the Edith R. Wyle Research Library of the Craft and Folk Art Museum in 1997, LACMA gained more than 5,000 books, catalogs, and unique ephemeral items documenting craft history. In addition, LACMA houses the Doris Stein Research Center for Costume and Textiles, which features original textile designs, books, and photographs documenting the work of major historical and contemporary designers.    

Mint Museum Library
Charlotte, North Carolina

The Delhom-Gambrell Reference Library at the Mint Museum’s Randolph location houses a notable collection of materials on the decorative arts, including a significant holding of rare titles from the 17th through the 21st centuries related to the museum's historic ceramics collection. Also unique to this collection are vertical files on more than 8,000 artists, including those in North Carolina and with objects in the museum collection.   

Rakow Research Library at the Corning Museum of Glass
Corning, New York

Looking for information on the art and history of glass and glassmaking? Look no further than the Juliette K. and Leonard S. Rakow Research Library of the Corning Museum of Glass. The mission of the Rakow says it all: “to acquire everything published on the subject of glass, in every format and in every language.” In addition to a premiere library collection, Rakow also provides users with a remarkable online selection of photographs, documents, and archival materials.

Textile Center Library
Minneapolis, Minnesota

With more than 26,000 books, magazines, and special publications, the Textile Center Library is filled to the brim with information on textiles and the fiber arts. A dedicated staff of knowledgeable volunteer librarians provide research assistance to visitors in-person, as well as over the phone and via email. The center itself is also a premier resource for information on fiber art with exhibitions, workshops, and programs held daily.

This list is far from all-inclusive, so if you want to learn more about the museums, libraries, and schools in your state, please visit the craft resources page on our website.