Art History/Classics Library receives $250K endowment to fund collections development

Photo of the Art History Library
Anthony Angel Pérez/Staff
The Art History/Classics Library intends to use the endowment funding on developing its Fine Arts Collection.

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UC Berkeley’s Art History/Classics Library recently received a $250,000 endowment from donor Alan Templeton to support collection development for its Fine Arts Collection with a focus on the field of European art.

Located on the third floor of Doe Library, the Art History/Classics Library houses about 20% of the university’s Fine Arts Collection. Its collection consists of more than 200,000 volumes and aims to support academic and research programs in the history of art and art practice departments and the Berkeley Art Museum, according to campus art librarian Lynn Cunningham.

For Templeton, an art collector and exhibit curator as well as a trustee of the UC Berkeley Foundation, the Art History/Classics Library provided an essential resource for his personal experiences curating exhibitions — reflecting the library’s larger role in providing “tremendous service to both the campus community and the larger community of scholars and enthusiasts every year,” he said in an email.

“It helps everyone if we have good libraries that have lots of material that show the different facets of art and human creativity,” Templeton said. “History and the world are just so much more interesting than what people sometimes think. It’s very easy to get wrapped up in your own little world — I’m trying to get people to see a bigger world.”

According to Cunningham, an endowment is special because it is a permanent fund that will provide resources for the library “well into the future.”

State funding for the library has dwindled over the years, resulting in a significant cut to the library budget for developing collections last year. As a result, the library is turning to support from donors to continue to fund collections development, Cunningham added.

“It is deeply saddening to see how funding cuts to the campus Libraries are impoverishing our public teaching and research mission,” said Gregory Levine, campus art professor and chair of the history of art department, in an email. “Specialized libraries like Art History/Classics are especially impacted by these central cuts, even as these libraries constitute some of our core intellectual and learning community spaces, whose collections are the raw materials of discovery.”

The Art History/Classics Library represents an important space for students, faculty and community members alike to conduct research — it is the equivalent of a scientific laboratory for the humanities, according to Cunningham.

According to Grace Kuipers, a graduate student in the art history department, the Art History/Classics Library is also essential to teaching. She stated the ability to access more books will be helpful for her students, who might otherwise be unable to find sources for topics they are interested in.

While the art books contained within the library’s collections are extremely valuable for research, they also come at a high cost. According to campus art professor Henrike Lange, a single hardcopy monograph can cost up to tens of thousands of dollars in various production expenses.

“A library is ideally not just a place where students and general public go for retrieving information, but for creating connections they could never have predicted without the books guiding them,” Lange said in an email. “This can only happen in the curated and organized yet open-ended and incalculable, dynamic space of the library with books standing next to each other, waiting to be discovered by someone who finds some new and unpredictable value in them.”

Amy Zeng is a general assignment reporter. Contact her at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @amyzengg.