The book collection contains books that are several hundred years old. Photo: Nasjonalmuseet / Frode Larsen


The National Museum’s library is Norway’s leading art library.

With the founding of the National Museum in 2003, the institution’s library inherited the book collections of the former Museum of Architecture, the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the National Gallery and the National Touring Exhibitions, Norway.

The oldest part of the library’s collection dates back to 1882, when Oluf Tostrup laid the foundation for the library at the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design with a book bequest. From 1904 onwards, the library also served the needs of the National College of Art and Design.

The library of the National Gallery, founded in 1924, constitutes another substantial and historically significant part of the collection.

Founded in 1988, the Museum of Contemporary Art began building up its own library, with a special emphasis on contemporary art.

The library’s holdings were significantly augmented in 2011, when Henie Onstad Art Centre transferred its own collection of books and exhibition catalogues to the National Museum. With more than 30,000 titles, many of them from the 1960s, 70s and 80s, the Henie Onstad material was particularly welcome, as it filled a historical gap prior to the establishment of the Museum of Contemporary Art, which only began collecting books in the 1990s.

The National Museum library now covers a long history with continuity and considerable breadth.

Over the years, the library has grown to contain around 180,000 book titles, exhibition catalogues and reference books on ancient and modern art, crafts, design, architecture, museology and conservation. The library subscribes to some 200 current journals, and holds a number of older journals of great art-historical value, in addition to collections of rare prints and unique items.

Over the years, the library has been used by artists, art historians, researchers, students and the general public. Its position within the institutions is documented in its visitors books, which contain the signatures of artists, art historians and other major cultural personalities.

The National Museum’s Documentation Archive contains primarily the art historical material about the institutions that were merged in 2003 to form the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design: the National Gallery (founded 1837), the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design (founded 1876), the Museum of Contemporary Art (founded 1988), the Norwegian Museum of Architecture (founded 1975), and the National Touring Exhibitions, Norway (founded 1996).

The Archive’s collections contain extensive documentation and research material of great art-historical and cultural significance. The Archives document the history and activities of the earlier institutions – information relating to exhibitions, art purchases, personnel, construction projects, accounts, art dissemination, incoming and outgoing loans, and artists.

The Archive also contains the private archives of artists, academics, collectors, associations, organisations, societies and companies. The material is diverse in terms of content, form and scope and consists of everything from letters, photographs, drawings, notes, diaries and manuscripts through to the minutes of meetings, journals, copy books and account ledgers.

In addition, the National Museum – Architecture at Bankplassen 3 holds a large collection of the private archives of architects.