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Library Collections


1. The Winterthur Library

When Henry Francis du Pont established the Winterthur Program in 1952, he provided a library for Winterthur fellows and program faculty, as well as Winterthur staff, to use in their studies. Initially housed in a museum room, the library has grown over time to become a center for scholarly research in American material culture and the decorative arts. Early on, Dr. Frank H. Sommer, the first library director, expanded the size of the library significantly by acquiring rare books, manuscripts, and secondary sources important to the curriculum of the Winterthur Program.

There are four parts to the Winterthur Library: the Collection of Printed Books and Periodicals, the Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera, the Visual Resources Collection, and the Winterthur Archives. The Collection of Printed Books and Periodicals contains over 100,000 imprints, rare books, and exhibit, trade, and auction catalogs. The rare book collection is particularly strong in the areas of architecture and design history, travel narratives, and materials pertaining to everyday life in the United States. The Joseph Downs Collection holds such primary resources as handwritten account books, architectural drawings, trade cards, house inventories, fabric sample books, and chromolithographic prints. The Visual Resources Collection includes tens of thousands of modern photographs of decorative art objects that document the work of craftspeople, workshops, and manufactories. The Winterthur Archives includes records relating to Winterthur as both a private estate and public institution. Items in the Archives range from Henry Francis du Pont’s papers, to historic photographs, to oral histories with staff members who worked for the du Ponts and Winterthur.

Students benefit from the knowledge of library staff who have an in-depth knowledge of material culture and decorative arts scholarship. Librarians also teach classes in the Winterthur Program and advise independent studies and thesis projects. Additionally, Winterthur’s librarians assist fellows in finding literature about their research topics, whether it is located in the Winterthur Library, in other repositories, or that is recently published.

The library collections are constantly growing as collectors, bibliophiles, generous donors, and dealers assist with collection development. Furthermore, Winterthur fellows play a key role in shaping the library’s collections. Fellows are encouraged to suggest new and innovative material culture and decorative arts scholarship to library staff. The perspectives that fellows offer help make the Winterthur Library a dynamic hub of cutting edge material culture and decorative arts scholarship.

IMG_0799 (2)Winterthur Fellows can borrow books from the library’s circulating collection and may use the reading room 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Rare books, manuscripts, visual resources photographs, and archival materials are available 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

For more about the Winterthur Library, see the library’s web site ( To access WinterCat, the library’s online catalog, go to

Professor Ritchie Garrison uses the manuscript and rare books collections in his Material Life in America class. 

2. University of Delaware Libraries

Winterthur Fellows also have access to the University of Delaware’s excellent library resources. Morris Library, for example, has an incredible collection of new scholarship relating to nearly every imaginable research topic. The breadth of the library’s collection is key for Winterthur Fellows, as material culture research can take students in so many different directions. The specificity and depth of the Winterthur material culture library collections is complemented by the University of Delaware’s breadth. Together, they provide Winterthur Fellows with every tool necessary to complete the most rigorous and innovative material culture/decorative arts scholarship.

But the University of Delaware Libraries also have special collections. Collections range in time period from the fifteenth century to the present, and include books, manuscripts, archival collections, maps, prints and graphic materials, broadsides, periodicals, pamphlets, photographs, audio-visual material, electronic records and born-digital material, ephemera, and realia. Winterthur classes are sometimes held in these libraries, particularly in preparation for the Fellows’ London Trip, as Fellows visit the Mark Samuels Lasner Collection to view its incredible holdings of 1850-1900 British literature and art.


Fellows examining Pre-Raphaelite and British Arts and Crafts material at the Mark Samuels Lasner Collection in advance of their London trip.