Mission & History
The Fiske Kimball Fine Arts Library, named in honor of the architect and architectural historian Fiske Kimball (1888-1955), was founded in 1970 as a branch of the University of Virginia Library system. The Library serves the McIntire Department of Art, the School of Architecture, and the Drama Department of the University of Virginia by acquiring, organizing, preserving, and providing access to and delivery of information.
The mission of the Fiske Kimball Fine Arts Library is two-fold:
- to support curriculum and research needs in the following areas: Architecture, History of Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Urban Planning, Studio Art, Art History, Theater History and the technical aspects of theater production;
- and to provide all patrons with access to information in a manner that is rapid, thorough, accurate, and courteous.
This mission is carried out in support of the University of Virginia Library. The Library also extends information services to the local community, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the nation.
Fiske Kimball Fine Arts Library, southeast corner by Heather Burns, Summer 2000.
The Fine Arts Collection has always been a part of Mr. Jefferson's University library. The first books of his fine arts library are the foundation of the modern collection. In 1825, Jefferson began the task of collecting books for the new library at the University. He had sold his own private collection to Congress in 1815, so a gift to the school was not possible. He had, nevertheless, already begun to assemble a fine arts collection for his own personal use and was, thus, in a perfect position to evaluate and select books for the new University library. His knowledge of the book market, particularly in Europe, made it easy for him to draw up a list of 6,860 volumes that would cost $24,076.50. Within that "want list" prepared by Jefferson were a substantial number of books on painting, sculpture, and certainly architecture, the core of a fine arts collection for the library. The list is extant in a manuscript entitled "President Jefferson's Catalogue of Books for the University of Virginia Library, 1825" that was transcribed by his secretary. The catalogue is arranged into three faculties called "Memory, Reason, and Imagination, subtitled respectively History, Philosophy, and Fine Arts." The forty-two further sub-headings complete what must be seen as a nascent card catalogue for the University Library. From its founding, the University library, therefore, had a strong fine arts collection.
The books selected were subject to availability, as always, but many of them were ancient classics as well as emerging modern ones. Architectural treatises played a major role, and a copy of Palladio was essential. Jefferson once remarked that there was not a copy of Palladio in Washington until 1804 when he brought the 1700 London edition there. It was noted that almost all the volumes chosen for architecture, sculpture, painting, and music were written in Italian. Seventeen of the titles chosen by Jefferson for the fine arts collection survived the fire in 1895, and those titles included 57 volumes. To this core had certainly been added numerous "modern" nineteenth century works over the course of the first seventy years of the art collection.
After the 1895 fire, the Rotunda was rebuilt with some alterations by Stanford White, and it continued to function as the library until the construction of the new Alderman Library in the 1930's. Within that time, many departmental collections were also gathered on Grounds while only one main library remained to support the burgeoning and diverse user communities at the University of Virginia. Most of the eleven libraries of the University libraries we see today grew out of collaboration between the centralized main library collection and those small departmental libraries. This certainly was true of the Fine Arts Library.
As Jefferson had wished, the University of Virginia developed a fine School of Architecture. In 1969, the School of Architecture moved into a new building named Campbell Hall that was designed with a library contiguous to it. In October of 1970, the library was formally named the Fiske Kimball Fine Arts Library in honor of the architect Fiske Kimball, a former head of the Department of Art and Architecture from 1919-1923. Fiske Kimball, later the director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art from 1925-1955, had another connection with the history of the fine arts collection. Kimball was one of the earliest and foremost historians of Jefferson and his architectural pursuits. Indeed, the collection of the new library reflected Kimball's interests while maintaining a close tie to its origins in Jefferson's plans. The collection that now became that of the Fiske Kimball Fine Arts Library was composed of a merger of the library's fine arts collection outlined earlier, the book holdings of the McIntire Department of Art, and the holdings of the departmental library of the School of Architecture. One weekend in January 1970, the architecture students and faculty themselves transported the 12,000 volumes collected in the Department of Architecture at Fayerweather Hall to the new library space.
The library is now housed in its own 18,000 square foot building. The collection has grown considerably and the variety of information collected and made accessible is now available in all types of media. The Fiske Kimball Fine Arts Library currently holds about 154,000 volumes in numerous formats. It still strives to continue its close ties to the Arts community it serves.A new fine arts precinct is now the goal of the University of Virginia's administration. It is envisioned as a community modeled on Jefferson's original "Academical Village" that sits on the hill across the way. It is planned with the present School of Architecture building, a new Studio Art building, a new Music and Theatre building, an Art History building in the old Fayerweather Hall, and, as a focal point, a new Arts Library, housing the Fine Arts and the Music and Performing Arts collections. What goes around comes around. We will once again be a focus of academic life, this time in our own arts community; and a Fine Arts and Music collection much as Jefferson and Fiske Kimball would have envisioned it. The Fiske Kimball Fine Arts Library will move into the next seventy years as both a traditional and a virtual electronic library again as the center of an active scholarly community.
-- Lucie Wall Stylianopoulos, 2001
Wilson, Richard Guy. "The Lawn: Perceptions of a Masterpiece," Virginia: The University of Virginia Alumni News, 80-7 (Nov/Dec, 1993).
O'Neal, William Bainter. Jefferson's Fine Arts Library (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1976).
Robertson, Jack. "Fiske Kimball: A Biographical Sketch, Culmination and Legacy," (http://www2.lib.virginia.edu/finearts/exhibits/fiske/).