History of the collection

The faculty library’s art history collection (L70) originates from the Art History Library, a scientific library part of the department of Art History, Musicology and Theatre Studies at Ghent University’s faculty of Arts and Philosophy. The library was housed in a location specifically designed for its purpose by Henry Van de Velde in the 1930s. This location was meant to be an intellectual meeting place and a space for reflection in the heart of the former HIKO (Higher Institute for Art History and Archeology). It enclosed a space of 400m² (the current Van de Velde room) and it offered a magnificent view both of the courtyard with its pond and of the Book Tower.

2011. Tentoonstelling Art(silence): een compilatie van het werk van 60 kunstenaars die in de Kunstbib exposeerden.

2011. Exhibition Art(silence): a compilation of the works of 60 artists in the Art History Library.

Initially, the library housed general publications on art history and art theory, and reference works and introductions on auxiliary sciences and art technology. More specialized works were to be found in the seminar libraries of the time and were linked to specific art disciplines. In this way, separate entities developed progressively and on different locations, and they were aimed at study and research regarding Plastic Arts in Europe, Plastic Arts in the Netherlands, Architectural Heritage, Ethnic Arts, Musicology, Crafts, Methodology and Theatre Studies. Due to lack of space the collections on Methodology of Art History and Miniature Art were moved to a separate library. Works on Aesthetics and Art Philosophy were originally part of the seminar for Philosophy and Moral Sciences and only later joined the Art History collection.

Following a university rationalization plan including changes for both staff and spaces, a number of seminars moved from Blandijnberg to St. Hubertusstraat 2. This lead to the first merger of seminar library collections (mainly the two seminar libraries for Plastic Arts in Europe and the Netherlands, and the collections on Crafts, Aesthetics and Arts Philosophy) into a larger and more cohesive collection.

Prof. em. dr. De Schrijver and Prof. em. dr. Van Damme were responsible for the move and the reorganization of the library collection. Upon the retirement of Prof. em. dr. A. De Schrijver, Prof. em. dr. Van Damme managed the collection and became the official head of the library on 23 March 1990.

In November 2003, after a difficult transition period featuring limited resources and staff, Benn Deceuninck was hired as a fulltime library staff member. Professional library services were provided, renovation works were carried out in the building, the room was repainted and redecorated in line with the original building plans. Modernization was key: IT, automation, conservation and security were introduced. The seminar library for Architectural Heritage was incorporated into the larger collection.

The Art History library consisted of a large collection of books and periodicals that bore witness to a steady and diversified acquisition policy. The collection boasted general works that transcended the boundaries of scientific disciplines as well as specialized works with an outspoken focus on Fine Arts, Architectural Heritage, Crafts, Aesthetics and Arts Philosophy. Selections were made by diverse members of academic staff linked to diverse disciplines or specialisms. The collection consisted of 33,000 publications, which were organized in open shelves for a user-friendly experience.

2011. Huldiging van prof. Claire Van Damme.

2011. Celebrating prof. Claire Van Damme.

The Fine Arts collection covered international and national art history with a vast selection of reference works, catalogues, periodicals, monographs and thematic studies and with an eye to including different artistic media and disciplines.

The Ancient Art collection focused on 15th- and 16th-century Art from the Low Countries, on source works and on material technical research. The auction catalogues collection was transferred to the Book Tower. The library also included a scientific specialized collection on 20th- and 21st- century art and corresponding art theoretical studies, periodicals and catalogues. The aim was to complement the collection on Aesthetics and Arts Philosophy as well as the library of the nearby SMAK. The collection included publications on both creations that are and creations that are not medium specific.

Museum management, and conservation and management of both ancient and modern and contemporary art were another focus of attention.

In the autumn of 2015, the collection was transferred to the Faculty Library of Arts and Philosophy. Part of the collection was stored in the depot (mainly less topical works). The Aesthetics and Arts Philosophy collection was incorporated into the Philosophy and Moral Sciences collection (LWBIB.L27.50-60).