Libraries and Special Collections

Students and faculty at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago have access to the rich collections of both the museum and the school, which support teaching and learning at SAIC. Our collections include traditional library and archival collections along with nontraditional, interdisciplinary, multimedia and site-specific resources.

John M. Flaxman Library

Student looking at book in Flaxman Library

Main Collections

The John M. Flaxman Library is located at the physical and intellectual heart of the campus. We strive to provide services and resources to encourage critical thinking and creative practices. Library staff collaborates with every program at the School to support teaching, learning, and research across the entire curriculum at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Our collections offer access to hundreds of thousands of books, magazines, movies, and sound recordings on a variety of topics that reflect the interdisciplinary nature of contemporary art and design, and the pedagogical approaches to education at SAIC. 

Students look at item from Joan Flasch Collection

Joan Flasch Artist's Book Collection

The Joan Flasch Artists' Book Collection (JFABC) is a rich collection of artists’ publications available in Flaxman Library Special Collections. The JFABC brings together over eleven thousand artists’ publications in all formats and media including: books, zines, multiples, video, and audio recordings, digital works, periodicals, and other unique works of art created by artists of local, national, and international significance. Focusing on materials published from the 1960s to the present, it is complemented by collections of reference works and exhibition catalogues to support in-depth research on artists’ publishing.

Shelves with archived reels of film

Archives + Other Collections

The Flaxman Library Special Collections holds unique primary source materials in The Randolph Street Gallery Archives, Goat Island Archive, Threewalls Gallery Archive, Tony Zwicker Archives, Audiovisual Archives and more. These collections include images, documents, artifacts, audiovisual recordings and other materials which can be made available for research and teaching. You can view a complete list of our archives here.  Digitized items from the archives can be searched and viewed on SAIC’s Digital Collections. We welcome class visits (by appointment) as well as individual researchers from the School and the general public.

SAIC Special Collections

FRC Center Image-Black Dress

Fashion Resource Center

The Fashion Resource Center is a hybrid research hub for faculty and students within SAIC’s Fashion Department as well as the school’s larger community. Its unique collection of late twentieth and twenty-first century designer garments and accessories represent innovations in construction, materials, and embellishments. As a study collection, visitors are able to handle garments and objects, while referencing the FRC’s extensive visual, print and fabric libraries that support and illuminate the physical garments and accessories. These combined resources provide students and researchers with a creative and educational environment to explore the most progressive achievements in the world of fashion.

Image from inside the Roger Brown Study Collection

Roger Brown Study Collection

The Roger Brown Study Collection is a house museum and archive, located in renowned artist and SAIC alumnus Roger Brown's former home and studio in Chicago’s Lincoln Park/DePaul neighborhood. A short El ride from the Loop campus, this Artists' Museum features works by Chicago Imagists, self-taught artists, folk and tribal art, objects from popular culture, costumes, textiles, furniture, travel souvenirs, and a Ford Mustang in the garage. The building and collection function as an objects lab and place of wonder, where the SAIC community may engage with an extensive collection of art and artifacts in a 19th-century storefront building.

A variety of textiles are laid out on a table in the SAIC textile resource center

Textile Resource Center

The Textile Resource Center (TRC), part of SAIC's network of Special Collections, offers hands-on study of global textiles dating from pre-Columbian to contemporary times to the SAIC community. Visitors engage with textiles and books reflecting the broad array of materials, processes, patterns, designs, approaches, and cultures representing innovative historical and contemporary textile practices as well as exploring conceptual approaches in the making of textiles throughout the world.

Students watching VDB video

Video Data Bank

Founded at SAIC in 1976 at the inception of the media arts movement, Video Data Bank (VDB) is the leading resource in the United States for video by and about contemporary artists. The VDB’s collection has grown to include the work of more than 600 video artists — from early pioneers of the form to the latest contemporary makers — and 6,000 titles, which are available to the SAIC community for research and study. VDB also promotes the collection to museums, cultural institutions, and educators worldwide through a far-reaching national and international distribution service, providing both opportunities and royalties for artists.

The Art Institute of Chicago

Research library at the Museum of the Art Institute of Chicago

Research Collections

The Art Institute invites scholars, students, teachers, the curious and inspired, and learners of all sorts to take advantage of our world-class library and archives and make use of our research tools, study rooms, and opportunities to learn.