The Library of the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery originated as a collection of four thousand monographs, periodical issues, offprints, and sales catalogues that Charles Lang Freer donated to the Smithsonian Institution as part of his gift to the nation. With more than eighty-six thousand volumes, the Library now is considered one of the finest repositories of Asian art resources in the United States.
Since it opened in the Freer Gallery in 1923, the Library's purpose has been to foster and stimulate study of the artistic traditions and cultures of the peoples of Asia. The Library maintains the highest standards for collecting materials relevant to the history of Asian art and culture through an active program of purchases, gifts, and exchanges.
In July 1987 the Library moved to its new home in the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. Today it supports activities of both museums, such as collection development, exhibition planning, publications, and other scholarly and educational projects. Its published and unpublished resources—in the fields of Asian art and archaeology, conservation, painting, sculpture, architecture, drawings, prints, manuscripts, books, and photography—are available to museum staff, outside researchers, and the visiting public.
About half of the collection consists of works in Chinese or Japanese. While the Library's predominant focus is on Asian art and archaeology, it also includes publications about American artists who were active in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and whose works are in the Freer Gallery of Art.