Hirsch Library FAQs

Our committed team of information professionals are available to answer your questions in person four days a week, with phone and email service on Mondays and Tuesdays. Below you will find answers to some frequently asked questions.

Did we miss something? Contact a librarian: hirsch@mfah.org

Using the Library

Who can use the Hirsch Library?
The libraries of the MFAH provide information services to anyone interested in visual arts research.

What's the difference between the Hirsch Library and the Powell Library?
The Hirsch Library serves as the institution’s primary research facility with an encyclopedic visual arts collections covering antiquities to modern and contemporary art. Situated on the Fayez S. Sarofim Campus, the Hirsch Library is located on the lower level of the Audrey Jones Beck Building.

The Kitty King Powell Library serves as the research entity for Bayou Bend Collections and Gardens, encompassing American decorative and fine arts from the colonial era to the late-19th century. The Kitty King Powell Library and Study Center is located at Bayou Bend.

When can I come to Hirsch Library?
We are open to the public from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday; and 12 noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday, with phone and email service available on Monday and Tuesday. Appointments are not necessary. For exceptions to these regular hours, including special holiday closures, see mfah.org/hirsch to find out more.

Do I have to pay an admission fee to use the Library?
Visiting the Hirsch Library is always free.

What do I do upon arrival?
Sign in at the information services desk and use one of our computer terminals to search our online catalog, or chat with us to consult with one of our reference librarians.

Library Collections

What kind of research materials do you offer?
The Hirsch Library contains an expanding collection of 175,000 published materials on art, art history, and cultural context that complement the Museum’s art collections. This includes art books, exhibition catalogs, artist books, museum publications, artist files, art journals, periodicals, art databases, special collections, rare books, DVDs and more.

How can I search for materials that you offer?
Simply search the library catalog! Use search tips and examples for best results.

What electronic resources do you offer?
We provide access to a broad range of digital resources dedicated to visual arts. These include subscription databases and links to online dictionaries, encyclopedias, style manuals, books, periodicals, newspapers, online news, local library catalogs, national library catalogs, and more.

What does the message “In use: Request at desk” mean in your library catalog?
Due to institutional research needs, some items may be in use by Museum staff on campus. Book recall requests can be made in advance. Please ask for assistance at the information services desk.

Am I allowed to view and handle special collections materials?
You can search the library catalog for special collections and rare materials, which may require special handling, washing of hands, use of gloves, and book cradles.

Can I place library materials on hold?
Of course! Please ask one of the librarians at the information services desk, or contact us via phone or email with the items you’d like for us to hold.

Can I check materials out from the library?
We are a non-circulating library, so all materials must remain in our reading room.

How do I keep the information if I can’t check out a book?
Scanning, printing, and non-flash photography of collection materials are permitted as self-service options.

Library Services

What kind of equipment do you offer?
Black & white and color printer, microfilm reader, phone chargers, and public computers are available at no charge.

Can I charge my phone in the library?
Yes, we offer complimentary charging stations for iPhone or Android devices throughout the reading room.

Do you have the Internet?
Absolutely. You can use the Museum’s free Wi-Fi or use one of our eight computer terminals.

Can I print things out, such as school assignments or City Pass?

May I make photocopies from your library materials?
Yes, you may make photocopies from flat or paper items in the collection. Books should be scanned with the overhead scanner.

For your convenience, a self-serve overhead scanner and photocopier are available. Printed pages and photocopies cost 10¢ for each black & white copy, including double-sided copies, and 50¢ for each color copy. Only cash or check payments are accepted.

The photocopier makes both color and black & white copies in three sizes: 8½”x11,” 8½”x14,” and 11”x17.”

Researchers must observe copyright laws when making and using copies.

How do I pay for photocopies and computer printouts?
Only payment by cash is accepted for photocopies and computer printouts. Each black & white photocopy or printout, including double-sided copies, costs 10¢, and each color photocopy or printout, including double-sided copies, costs 50¢.

May I take photographs of portions of your library materials?
Yes, you may photograph portions of most materials. However, flash photography is prohibited. Researchers must observe copyright laws when making reproductions.

Is there a place to just hang out and read?
Absolutely! You can relax in our air-conditioned reading room, or sit outside in the Susan Clayton Garwood Courtyard.

Can I bring my coffee or lunch into the reading room?
Food and drinks are prohibited in the reading room, collection, and exhibition areas.

Art Inquiries

How do I find out more information about a work of art I own?
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) provides some helpful guidance: Art Research FAQ

Appraisal and Conservation

How do I have a work of art appraised or conserved?

For art appraisals:

Museum personnel do not appraise works of art or recommend individual appraisers because of a potential conflict of interest. However, to locate an appraiser that matches your needs, call or visit the websites of the following professional associations:

ASA American Society of Appraisers

ISA International Society of Appraisers

Appraisers Association

While an initial discussion may be complimentary, appraisers charge for their services. Consider researching similar objects before hiring an appraiser. For your use, the Hirsch Library subscribes to auction databases that indicate current market values. In addition, contact the reference desk for help with your research.

Personal art objects are not allowed in the Museum or the library. However, you may bring photographs, sketches, or other documentation to aid your research.

Local branches of auction houses include:

Simpson Galleries, Auctioneers of Fine Art & Antiques

For art conservation:
The procedure for selecting professionals to preserve, conserve, or restore objects of art is similar to that of choosing an appraiser. Members of the Hirsch Library staff recommend contacting or visiting the website of the following professional association:

AIC American Institute for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works


How can I donate to the Hirsch Library?
We welcome financial contributions, donations of gifts, and book donations, all of which help build our collections. You may also honor a loved one by funding a book from our wish list or donating a book from your collection. You’ll receive a personalized book plate and credit lines in our online catalog. All gifts are tax-deductible. If you are interested in making a donation, please contact our chief librarian.

How can I volunteer at the Hirsch Library?
We’re always looking for book enthusiasts and champions of learning who enjoy donating their time and individual skills through volunteering! If you are interested in making a difference in your community through service, volunteer today by contacting us.

Museum Collection

How do I find out more about a work of art in the MFAH?
The art and news sections of the MFAH website feature information about the MFAH art collections and exhibitions. Research guides provide additional information on some of our most popular works of art, in addition to art research tips.

How do I find out if a specific work of art is on view?
Check the Museum’s online collections database, which indicates if a work of art is on view or not. If you wish to find out more information about an artwork’s location, contact the reference desk by email, by phone, or in person, and a member of the library staff will tell you which building and gallery you can view the work of art.