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The Reference Library is currently closed. 

The Reference Library is a reference collection of materials relating to the arts, antiquities, and rare books and manuscripts, which supports the Museum in its mission to contribute to society through the pursuit of education, learning and research at the highest international levels of excellence.

The Library is open for appointments Tuesdays-Fridays, 10-1 and 2-4:30 (find us by the Courtyard Entrance to the Museum). As most of the materials are held in closed access, please contact us in advance to allow sufficient time for us to fetch everything you need.

The Library is closed on Good Friday, all Bank Holiday Mondays, and between Christmas and New Year.


Further Information

Most material can be found on iDiscover, which searches all Cambridge University Library Collections. More is being added all the time, so if you can’t find an item on the catalogue, it is still worth asking in case the Library has it waiting to be catalogued

Textbooks – the Library holds a number of textbooks relating to the fine arts, decorative arts, rare books and manuscripts, and antiquities. The Library also extends its collection policy to museum studies and conservation.

Museum catalogues – the Library retains a copy of every catalogue produced by the Fitzwilliam Museum. The Library also holds many exhibition and collection catalogues from the world’s leading museums and art galleries.

Dealers’ catalogues – the Library holds a significant number of catalogues from Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillip’s sales. The Library also holds major runs of catalogues from smaller dealers, and many catalogues not held by any other institution.

Periodicals – the Library holds nearly 300 current periodicals, and many more now ceased. These include major art and antiquities journals, and bulletins and annual reports from museums and galleries worldwide. 

Microfilms – the Library has microfilms of many of the museum’s rare books and manuscripts, which may be more easily accessible than the originals.

Guide to Shelfmarks and Finding Materials

The Library mainly uses Library of Congress Classification for shelfmarks (eg DT63 for Pyramids, ND497 for British artists). For exhibition catalogues, the shelfmark is City.Year, so a catalogue of an exhibition held in New York in 2007 will have the shelfmark New York.2007. For any exhibition held in London, the shelfmark is Institution.Year, (eg Tate Modern.2015, British Museum.1992).

Sales and dealers’ catalogues are shelved in alphabetical order by the dealer’s name. The majority of sales catalogues, particularly Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillip’s catalogues, are still being retrospectively added to the online catalogue, so please contact the Library even if you don’t see the catalogue you’re looking for, as it may be available.

For numismatics catalogues, check the Department of Coins & Medals Catalogue here.

A shelfmark of “Reserved” means that the item is held in the Founders’ Library. For information on how to access this material, visit here.

A location of “Hamilton Kerr Institute” and/or a shelfmark with the code (HKI) means that the book is held at the Hamilton Kerr Institute. Most books can be fetched to the Reference Library within 3-5 working days so please allow enough notice for your request. Reference materials, student projects and congress reports cannot be fetched and will need to be consulted at the Institute; contact the Library Assistant to arrange an appointment.

When requesting materials for your appointment, please state clearly the title, author, and classmark, and in the case of dealers’ catalogues, the date of the sale.


Photocopying and Photography

The library has a coin-operated colour photocopier (there is no scanning facility available). Readers are also welcome to register to take photographs of the materials on smartphones or tablets, subject to copyright law. Readers are not permitted to take photos of the library environment or staff.


Wi-Fi Access

Cambridge University staff and students have access to Wi-Fi in the library through Uni of Cam. Visitors from other academic institutions are able to access Wi-Fi through Eduroam (this needs to be set up in advance at your home institution).

The Reference Library is open by appointment to all who wish to make use of it. Appointments can be made with Library staff by phone on 01223 764398 or email on

The normal hours of business are Tuesday to Friday, 10.00-12.30 amd 14.00-16.30. The Library is closed on Good Friday, Bank Holiday Mondays and between Christmas Eve and New Year.

The Library is reference only; borrowing is not permitted. No reader may remove from the Reference Library any book or other property in the care of the Museum.

The marking of any object in the care of the Museum is forbidden. Bottles of ink, correction fluid and other potentially damaging substances may not be brought into the Reference Library.

Photocopies or photographs may be made of books and journals within the limits of copyright law (Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988). It is a criminal offence to infringe this Act. Photographic copies of curatorial items may be ordered via our Photographic Sale Officer.

Laptops and mobile devices may be used in the Reference Library. Wireless via UniofCAM previously known as Lapwing is available to staff and students of the University of Cambridge and via Eduroam to members of universities which use it.

Coats, cases, bags, folders etc are welcome in the Library, but may be subject to examination on exit from the Library and/or the Museum.

Food and drink may not be brought into the Reference Library.

Smoking is not allowed anywhere in the Museum.

Admission is granted by the Library Staff, but may be revoked by a Keeper, the Director, or the Syndics of the Museum at their absolute discretion.