The Robert Goldwater Library & The Visual Resource Archive
Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas
The Robert Goldwater Library is part of the Museum’s Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas. It is a noncirculating research library dedicated to the documentation of the visual arts of sub-Saharan Africa, the Pacific Islands, and Native and Precolumbian America. The Library collection comprises over 20,000 books published worldwide, with an additional 10,000 volumes of periodicals, including current subscriptions to 175 journals. Subject strengths include the art and material culture of West Africa, Papua New Guinea and Irian Jaya (Indonesia), and Precolumbian Mexico and Peru, with extensive holdings in related disciplines such as anthropology, ethnology, and archaeology. The Library’s collection includes exhibition and auction sales catalogs, as well as academic theses and dissertations.
Hours and Access
Visitors are encouraged to search the holdings of The Goldwater Library in Watsonline, the Museum libraries’ online catalog. Items may be requested through Watsonline (see information about paging times on this page) for use in Watson Library. If requested items are in use by museum researchers, patrons will be directed to a reference librarian for further information.
Hours: Researchers with special requests for Goldwater Library material may make appointments in advance via email for Tuesdays and Thursdays, 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Appointment requests must be received at least 24 hours in advance.
An email confirmation with more information about using the Goldwater Library will be sent if the requested date and time is available.
Telephone: (212) 570-3707 (no messages or appointments).
For reference assistance by phone, please contact Watson Library: (212) 650-2225 (9:30 am – 5:00 pm on weekdays).
Robert Goldwater Library wiki
The Goldwater Library wiki is a freely available online resource to comprehensive and authoritative scholarship on the traditional art and material culture of the Library’s core culture regions – sub-Saharan Africa, native and Precolumbian America, and the islands of the Pacific.
The primary focus is the understanding and interpretation the collection on display in the galleries. To that end the wiki hosts research guides to selected signature objects. Each guide includes links to Museum resources, such as the Collection Database and the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, and citations for published works on the communities and traditions that surround the object’s creation and use. A link to WATSONLINE accompanies each citation.
In addition the wiki directs visitors to bibliographies relating to departmental exhibitions and brief histories of the library and the Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas.
The library of the Museum of Primitive Art, located on West 54th Street in Manhattan, opened to the public in 1957. The Museum, founded by Nelson Rockefeller, was devoted entirely to the arts of the indigenous cultures of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas and to those art objects related to the early civilizations of Asia and Europe. The museum closed in 1975. The library’s holdings were transferred, with other holdings of that institution, to The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1978. In January 1982 the library reopened to the public as the Robert Goldwater Library. Robert Goldwater (1907-1973) was the first director of the Museum of Primitive Art and a renowned scholar in both modern and African art. His Primitivism in Modern Art, initially published in 1938, was the pioneering study of the subject.
The Visual Resource Archive (VRA), formerly known as the Photograph Study Collection, is part of the Museum’s Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas, and contains an array of holdings, including photography, audiovisual recordings, and archival collections that are based on contextual materials in all the fields the department covers. The VRA holds more than 200,000 images, ranging from glass and paper negatives, albumen and silver gelatin prints, 35-mm slides, to born digital image files. Several thousand historic postcards, the Photograph Study Collection itself, and images taken by noted authorities Paul Wirz, Anthony Forge, Merle Green Robertson, and Paul Gebauer, are included, as are images taken by Michael C. Rockefeller. Archival collections include the professional papers, manuscripts, correspondence, and images of internationally known anthropologists/scholars such as Phillip J.C. Dark, Tobias Schneebaum, and Paul Fejos, as well as the records of New York’s Museum of Primitive Art.
Hours and Access
The Visual Resource Archive is open by appointment only. Appointment requests must be received at least 24 hours in advance. To make an appointment via email, please contact: AAOA.VisualResourceArchive@metmuseum.org
Tuesday-Friday 10:00 am-1:00 pm and 1:30 pm-4:45 pm
Advance appointments are required.