The MFAH’s Art Library Is Making a Big Move

Here’s what you should know about the new Hirsch Library.

By Amarie Gipson April 5, 2022

The Hirsch Library is currently closed to the public and set to reopen in a new location this fall. 

ON THE HEELS OF a MASSIve CAMPUS EXPANSION, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston's Hirsch Library is getting a new home. Formerly located in the Museum's Law Building near the decorative arts galleries since 2001, the library is moving across the street into the now-defunct MFA Cafe. (Don't worry, you can still grab a bite at the delicious Cafe Leonelli). 

Hirsch opened its current space in 2001. Technically, the library's move started three years ago as its underground stacks relocated to make way for a tunnel that connects the Law building to the new Kinder buildings.  

"One of the most exciting things is that this will give us a whole new exposure and announce to many people that may not have even realized we were here," Jon Evans, Hirsch's director, tells Houstonia. "I can't tell you how many people have said, 'Oh, I've been a member here for ten years, and I didn't know there was a library here."

The library was first established in 1926 and it was run by volunteers until the early 1960s. Its current facility was famously designed in 1973 by German architect Mies Van Der Rohe and renamed in 1981 after General Maurice and his spouse Winifred Hirsch's generous endowment. The collection contains a growing collection of 200,000 books that span history, with their most recent (and significant) acquisition, the Nuremberg Chronicle, dating back to 1493.

In addition to the decreased wait time for patrons, a new location will mean increased visibility. Evans considers it "a real nexus," located at the intersection of much campus traffic. The new Hirsch will feature a reading room twice the size of the last one, higher ceilings, and a glass facade that will welcome visitors passing through the Millenium galleries or coming down from the leading gift shop. A few of the library's original tables and chairs, and its signature will be a great wall of, you guessed it, art books. 

The Hirsch Library will reopen in its new home in early fall. As for the old space, the former reading room will merge to accommodate the much-needed gallery expansion for the Islamic art department. 

"The impact we're making on research here in Houston has grown with the Museum's growth," Evans says. "The most rewarding thing is when you see the right book get into the right hands. We're connecting the patrons that come here with the resources they need."

The Hirsch Library is free to museum visitors. For more information on the Hirsch Library and its collection, visit here

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