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Religion Collections in Libraries and Archives:
A Guide to Resources in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia

Table of Contents - Preface/Acknowledgements - Abbreviations
Lists of Entries: District of Columbia - Maryland - Virginia

Smithsonian Institution: Freer Gallery of Art Library

Address: Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
1050 Independence Avenue NW
MRC 707
Washington, DC 20560
Telephone Number: (202) 357-4880
ext. 343
Fax Number: (202) 786-2936
Contact Persons: Lily Kecskes, Head Librarian

Access Policies

Hours of Service:
Monday--Friday 10:00 a.m.--5:00 p.m.
Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 10:00 a.m.--5:00 p.m.
Slide Library:
Monday--Thursday 12:30 p.m.--5:00 p.m.
Open to the public: Yes
Photocopying:: Yes
Interlibrary loan: No

Interlibrary loan is limited to photocopying of materials for RLIN SHARE members free of charge; for other users photocopying is 10 cents per page. Rare books may not be photocopied. There is limited access to and photocopying of archival materials.

Reference Policy:
Telephone, mail and fax reference questions are answered.
Borrowing Privileges:
The collection is non-circulating except for slides. 50 slides may be borrowed for two weeks with a $20 deposit.
RLIN. Holdings are listed in RLIN and searchers may be done for researchers.
Background Note:
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919) bequeathed his collections, including his books and manuscripts to Smithsonian Institution in 1906. The Freer Gallery building was completed in 1921 and opened in 1923. Freer's library was the nucleus of the present collection.
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Description of Collections

Books and monographs:
The collection holds approximately 1,500 volumes dating from the 16th century to the 1990's. Most volumes date from the 20th century. Strengths include coverage of all Asian religions, Christianity in Asia, missionaries in Asia--all of which touch on Asian art and culture.

There are two card catalog used for works before 1987. These use the Dewey system and are separated by language, one for Asian and one for Western languages. In 1987 a catalog using the Library of Congress system was established. All languages are cataloged together. The library also has an OPAC, INNOPAC which covers materials since May 1995. This catalog also includes all RLIN bibliographic records (21,000).

Periodicals and newspapers:
The Library holds five titles dating from the 1970's through the 1990's. Subject strengths for these journals are Buddhism and art in China and Japan.

RLIN, INNOPAC, and the Library's cardex file cover these holdings.

Archives, manuscripts, correspondence, and oral histories:
There are four major manuscript collections which date from the 3rd to the 8th century.

Washington Bible Manuscripts: the original manuscripts are in the Freer's art collections. The Library has the following facsimiles:

  • Manuscript I. Deuteronomy and Joshua: A Facsimile of the Washington Manuscript of Deuteronomy and Joshua. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1910.
  • Manuscript II. The Psalms: Photographs of the Washington Manuscript of the Psalms in the Freer collection. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1919.
  • Manuscript III. The Four Gospels: A Facsimile of the Washington Manuscript of the Four Gospels in the Freer Collection. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1912.
  • Manuscript IV. The Epistles of Paul (Fragmentary). This item is part of the Freer Art Collection and not the Freer Art Library.
  • Manuscript V. The Minor Prophets (in part): Facsimile of the Washington Manuscript of the Minor Prophets in the Freer Collection and the Berlin Fragment of Genesis. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1927.

Two sources provide bibliographic coverage for these manuscripts: The Gallery Registrar's collection records and the Library's card catalogs. The archivist for these collections is Colleen Hennessey, 357-4880 ext. 341.

Four microform titles with strengths in religion and art.

These titles are listed in RLIN and INNOPAC.

Vertical files:
Less than one file-cabinet drawer of articles, clippings and pamphlets with an emphasis on religion and art in Asia. Dates of the collection cover the 1920s through the 1990s.
Paintings, photographs, slides, and prints:
Religion or religion-related slides and photographs number in the thousands. Dates for this collection begin early in this century and continue to the present day. Highlights of the collection include religious sculpture, painting, monuments, temples, caves, and other works of art and faith.

In-house finding aids are available for these collections.

Subject Headings

Bible manuscripts; Buddhism; Christianity--Asia; Confucianism; Enlightenment (Buddhism); Folk religion--Asia; Goddesses--Asia; Gods--Asia; Hinduism; Indigenous religion--Asia; Islam; Jainism; Jesuits--Asia; Judaism--Asia; Magic--Asia; Missions and missionaries--Asia; Mysticism--Asia; Mythology--Asia; Occultism--Asia; Religion and art; Religion and state--Asia; Religious art; Religious articles--Asia; Ritual--Asia; Sacred books--Asia; Shamanism; Shinto; Shrines--Asia; Sufism; Supernatural--Asia; Sutras; Symbolism--Asia; Tantrism; Taoism; Witchcraft--Asia; Women and religion--Asia; Worship--Asia; Zen Buddhism; Zoroastrianism


Smithsonian Institution. Freer Gallery of Art. Library. Dictionary Catalog of the Library of the Freer Gallery of Art [microform]. 2nd enl. ed., on microfiche. Boston, MA: G.K. Hall, 1991. [252 microfiches in 2 containers : negative ; 11 x 15 cm].

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  June 22, 2017
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