special collections

Rare Books and Periodicals:

An eclectic assortment of rare and one-of-a-kind titles, unique and limited edition books created by artists, and art-related magazines and scholarly journals dating as far back as 1877. Available for in-library use only.

16mm Films:

A collection that spans the history of filmmaking, focused primarily on experimental film. Available through the library’s Media Office to Film Department faculty for classroom use.

Audio Tapes:

A collection composed primarily of visiting artists’ lectures recorded at the San Francisco Art Institute between 1976 and 2000. The collection also contains some music, spoken word performances, and poetry. Artists’ lectures and performances that took place after the year 2000 can be found on video tape and DVD. All audio tapes in this collection are available for in-library use (portable cassette players are provided). Please bring your valid SFAI student ID. Some audio tapes are currently in storage, so requests may involve a short wait time. Be aware that tape quality varies widely.

Institutional Archives:

The SFAI Archives contain a wealth of primary source material pertaining to art, culture, and American arts education in the 19th through the 21st centuries.

The archival collection includes manuscripts, account books, minutes, photographs, broadsides, clipping files, and ephemera documenting the history of the San Francisco Art Association (1871-1961), the California School of Design (1874-1916), the Mark Hopkins Institute of Art (1893-1906), the San Francisco Institute of Art (1907-1916), the California School of Fine Arts (1916-1961), the San Francisco Museum of Art (1916-1935), the Palace of Fine Arts (1915-1924), and the San Francisco Art Institute (1961-Present).

Collections include: 

  • Art exhibition catalogs and support documentation from 1877 through the present.
  • Artists’ files of manuscript material, clippings, and ephemera pertaining to California artists and people associated with the SFAA, CSFA, SFAI, etc. from 1871 to the present.
  • Material about the Palace of Fine Arts and the establishment of the San Francisco Museum of Art (now known as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art) by the San Francisco Art Association.*
  • A collection of photographs documenting the school’s history from the 1890s through the present.
  • A collection of material pertaining to Diego Rivera’s Making of a Fresco Showing the Building of a City mural at the California School of Fine Arts in 1931.
  • Both official publications and publications generated by student groups of the SFAA, CSFA, and SFAI from 1900 until today.
  • A collection of material documenting the founding of the California School of Fine Arts Photography Department by Ansel Adams in 1945.
  • Documentation of the 1949 Western Roundtable on Modern Art organized by Douglas MacAgy. Participants included Gregory Bateson, Kenneth Burke, Frank Lloyd Wright, Marcel Duchamp, George Boas, Mark Tobey, Darius Milhaud, Robert Goldwater, Andrew Ritchie, and Alfred Frankenstein.*
  • The Douglas MacAgy Papers (CSFA Director, 1945-1950).
  • The Louise Dahl-Wolfe Collection of materials pertaining to her time as a student at the California School of Fine Arts.
  • The John Collier, Jr. Collection of materials relating to his time as a photography faculty member, 1958-1992.
  • A collection of materials documenting the SFAI Film Department.

*These designated collections are available on microfilm through the Archives of American Art.

The SFAI Archives are available to qualified researchers by appointment only. Registration forms must be completed prior to use of materials. Reproduction of materials must be approved by the Archivist. 

For further information, contact library@sfai.edu.