Many visitors to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s main campus aren't aware of the free art library on site—but that is soon to change. After several months of being closed, the Hirsch Library has reopened to the public in its new, ultra-visible location.
Located in the space that held the former MFA Cafe (which is now Cafe Leonelli at the Kinder Building), the new Hirsch Library is a welcoming place for museum-goers and scholars alike. The improved library also boasts a separate reading room for rare books, an office for visiting scholars, more digitization equipment, a children’s section and more. The garden space is similar to the old one but currently still under construction, where a cascading water fountain is being restored. Jon Evans, the library’s director, worked closely with Museum Director Gary Tinterow to determine the overall aesthetic and finishes throughout.
Here are a few of our favorite elements of the new library.
1. The front lounge area
Right past the glass facade, visitors are welcomed by a suite of black lounge chairs and Fred Wilson's striking Venetian glass-inspired chandelier entitled To Die Upon a Kiss (2011) in the center of the front ceiling. You can walk in and take a break from browsing the galleries, or request a stack of books and spread out at one of the three oversized wood tables.
2. The twelve foot bookshelves
Unlike more traditional museum libraries, Hirsch is unique for its airy and modern style. The redesigned reading room features towering, 12-foot bookshelves that wrap the space with 4,200 of the collection’s 200,000 volumes on display.
3. It’s free, all the time
Whether you’re stopping in as part of general admission to the museum or wanting to make a designated trip, access to Hirsch is completely free and open to the public Wednesday thru Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. Periodicals, exhibition catalogs, and an array of other books are available to browse online and can be pulled by library staff for your research or viewing pleasure on site.
For hours and more information on the Hirsch Library collection, visit the MFAH’s website.