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Anne & Jerome Fisher Fine Arts Library


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About the Fisher Fine Arts Library

The services and collections of the Fisher Fine Arts Library facilitate work in architecture, landscape architecture, city and regional planning, historic preservation, history of art, and studio arts. Information services, including reference service, research consultation, and library instruction, are available to users. Collections emphasize Western subjects, but include extensive holdings on the arts of Islam, South Asia and East Asia, complementing materials in the Van Pelt and Museum libraries.

Our digital and print resources are designed to meet the needs of students and faculty of the departments, schools and programs of the University of Pennsylvania. We want to hear from our users about their needs and about how we can improve our library services.

Hannah Bennett
Fine Arts Librarian
(215) 573-4635

Architecture of the Fisher Fine Arts Library

The University of Pennsylvania's first library building was designed by Frank Furness (pronounced "furnace"), in consultation with library authorities Melvil Dewey and Justin Winsor. The collaboration produced a technologically advanced and utilitarian facility which, thanks to Furness's flamboyant style, was anything but mundane. The cornerstone was laid in October 1888, and the University of Pennsylvania Library was formally dedicated on February 7, 1891. The window mottoes and other inscriptions in the building were chosen by Horace Howard Furness (Frank's older brother), a Shakespearean scholar and prominent member of Penn's faculty in the late nineteenth century. Though destined to accommodate decades of collection expansion as projected in the 1880s, the building already was becoming crowded by the first decade of the twentieth century. Over the next thirty years, several major alterations and additions were made to accommodate heavier-than-expected use and to house various special collections, including the Horace Howard Furness Memorial Library, and the Henry Charles Lea Library. In 1962, the main and special library collections moved to the newly-constructed Van Pelt Library.

The former University Library, renamed the Furness Building after its architect, was home to the Fine Arts Library and an array of architectural studios, including that of Louis I. Kahn. The building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. Major restoration work, planned and directed by the firm of Venturi, Rauch and Scott Brown, was carried out from 1987 through 1990, with rededication taking place on the centennial of the original ceremony. In 1992 both the building and the library were formally renamed the Anne and Jerome Fisher Fine Arts Library to honor the principal donors to the restoration project.

An Appreciation: Frank Furness: the Poetry of the Present