The Richardson Memorial Library and Museum Archives retain resources that document the Saint Louis Art Museum’s history, enrich its identity, and inform its collections and programs. Notable holdings chronicle the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition, the Museum’s art collection and exhibitions, and include nearly 46,000 auction catalogs.
The Library aims to provide research coverage that mirrors the Museum's encyclopedic art collection. Historically, annual acquisitions have been enhanced by generous contributions from donors who frequently contributed both books and art objects.
Recent gifts from the Lowenhaupt and Zorensky families, Ron and Monique Ollie, and Thomas Alexander have greatly diversified holdings. Over the past five years, the Library has significantly expanded its online resources to include new databases, eJournals, and indexes.
Richardson Memorial Library was the first major gift to the art museum, the bequeathal of Mary Danah McMurray Richardson (1851-1911) in honor of her husband, Joseph Clifford Richardson (1849-1899). Mary Richardson's niece Henrietta McMurray More formally unveiled the public research library April 18, 1915. Her husband, Sanskrit scholar Paul More, delivered the dedicatory address.
Museum architect Cass Gilbert designed the original Richardson Memorial Library in three former exhibition spaces. This tripartite scheme provided a memorial entrance vestibule, a staffed collections area, and a bookcase-lined reading room. The domed vestibule featured murals by Elmer Ellsworth Garnsey and a bust of the library's namesake by George Julian Zolnay. Early library acquisitions included gifts from Mary M.S. Barclay, William K. Bixby, Halsey Ives, and J. Pierpont Morgan, and the purchase of books from the estate of New York architect Russell Sturgis.
The library has relocated twice since its opening. In 1938, it moved to the first floor of the museum. In 1979, it moved to a purpose-built space in a new administration building designed by Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates in collaboration with library consultant Robert Walsh.
The Library includes the Museum's Archives (established 1975) and staff also maintain a branch location in the Museum's Conservation Department. Additional Library resources are maintained in the Museum's Print Study Room and may be consulted in the Library with advance notice.