About us

The Kunstbibliothek was founded in 1868. It followed the foundation one year earlier of the Deutsches Gewerbe-Museum zu Berlin (or German Design Museum), which was set up at the initiative of the Greater Berlin Artisans’ Association. The Design Museum was not only a museum, it also included a teaching institute and a library. The fact that the Kunstbibliothek is not only an important research library, but also has a significant collection of artistic and technical prints and drawings relating to the decorative arts and architecture is largely due to the special circumstances surrounding its origin. As a result, the ideals that underpinned the German Design Museum’s foundation – the return to artisanal qualities – also defined the library’s acquisitions policy. Its essential purpose was to convey historical knowledge of style, technique, material, and traditional methods to artists and artisans. The distinctive character of the library was laid down in its constitution of 1867. It stated that the collecting activity would not only concentrate on technical and artistic books and magazines, but also on drawings and photographs depicting the fruits of outstanding craftsmanship. Thus, a comprehensive, exemplary model collection was established for design and architecture.

Peter Jessen, library director for four decades, from 1886 to 1924, was instrumental in shaping the library. Important acquisitions that were to have a lasting influence on the nature of the Kunstbibliothek, such as the accession of the Lipperheide Costume Library, the private estates of the architects Joseph Maria Olbrich and Hippolyte Destailleur and the photographer Ernst Juhl all occurred during his tenure, as did the library’s official separation from the Design Museum to become an independent organization on its own. By 1881 the German Design Museum had changed its name to the Kunstgewerbemuseum, and took up residency in a newly designed building on Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse that also accommodated its library and teaching institute. This building, designed by Martin Gropius (the elder) and Heino Schmieden, and known today as the Martin-Gropius-Bau, is a testament of the importance of the role that the institution now played in Berlin’s educational landscape within the few years since its founding. As the library’s fast-growing collection soon outstripped the available space, it relocated in 1905 to an additional wing that provided enough space for the collections of books and graphic materials, as well as spacious reading and study rooms. Adjoining the reading room was a small room, where temporary displays were shown. The library was placed on an equal footing as the museum in 1894, when it became a separate department at the Royal Museums in its own right. The relocation to the new premises was a sign of the library’s independence from the museum collections of the Kunstgewerbemuseum and paved the way for its new status and role as an independent research institute. In 1924, it was given the name it bears to this day: Kunstbibliothek (Art Library).

During World War II significant parts of the library’s holdings and collections were placed in safe-storage at external locations. Use of the library however continued until 1944. Just two years into peacetime, in 1947, parts of the collection were again made accessible to the public at its temporary site in Berlin-Dahlem. This was followed in 1954 by the library’s relocation to Jebensstrasse in Berlin-Charlottenburg.

The next stage in the library’s changing fortunes came in 1962 with the announcement of the plans for the erection of Kulturforum. In 1987 those plans started to take concrete shape with the start of construction on the new building for the Kunstbibliothek and Kupferstichkabinett, which had originally been designed by Rolf Gutbrod, with subsequent alterations by the architectural practice of Hilmer & Sattler. Opened in 1994, the new rooms at the Kulturforum provided a new home for the holdings of media on architecture, book art and media art, photography, fashion, and graphic design. In 2004, the Museum für Fotografie opened in Jebensstrasse, followed by the opening of the Archaeological Library in 2012 at the Archäologisches Zentrum close to the Museumsinsel Berlin. Both are divisions of the Kunstbibliothek.

Locations of the Kunstbibliothek

Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
Matthäikirchplatz 6
10785 Berlin

The Kunstbibliothek’s main site at the Kulturforum amounts to a research centre with one of the world’s largest specialist libraries dedicated to the history of art in the Western world from late antiquity to the present day. The Kunstbibliothek is more than a library and this site also contains its extremely diverse extensive museum collections of architecture-related material, book art and media art, graphic design, photography, and fashion.

The research centre is equipped with a public reading room for the library collections and a study room for the museum collections. Scholars from all over the world enjoy ideal working conditions here in which to conduct their research. The Kulturforum site is also a bountiful source of inspiration and stimulation for anyone exploring the history of design and styles in art.

Adding to the vibrancy of the research activity at the Kulturforum is the Kunstbibliothek’s varied programme of lecture series, book presentations, artist talks, and guided tours. The Kunstbibliothek’s exhibition room also features rotating exhibitions on selected topics that arise from and are reflected in the collections and current research. Large exhibitions on major themes that span several epochs and collection areas at the Staatliche Museen at once are presented to the public in the temporary exhibition galleries at the Kulturforum.

Museum für Fotografie
Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
Jebensstraße 2
10623 Berlin

The Museum für Fotografie at Berlin Zoologischer Garten is the Kunstbibliothek’s exhibition venue entirely dedicated to the history of photography and the camera. The Kunstbibliothek shares the premises with its partner institution, the Helmut Newton Foundation which occupies the ground floor and first floor. Before moving to the Kulturforum in 1994, this building housed all the Kunstbibliothek’s other facilities and services: its museum collections, the book holdings, reading room and administrative offices.

The historical Kaisersaal, located on the 2nd floor, is now home to temporary exhibitions, in which the Kunstbibliothek showcases its photographic treasures and reveals fresh perspectives on core themes in the history of photography. The museum quickly gained international appeal and standing thanks to its ambitious exhibitions, such as 'A Fresh Look – Architectural Photography from the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin' (2010), 'Microphotography – Beauty beyond the Visible' (2010/11) and 'The Colonial Eye – Early Portrait Photography in India' (2012).

The adjacent north-facing Fürstensaal, is not only home to the offices of the museum’s patron society (Verein der Freunde des Museum für Fotografie) but also provides space for lectures, symposia, and lectures. Plans are afoot for the south-facing Fürstensaal: the Kunstbibliothek is joining forces with Berlin’s Universität der Künste in setting up an ideas lab here in which to test out innovative curatorial and photography-related artistic concepts.

Archäologisches Zentrum
Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
Geschwister-Scholl-Straße 6
10117 Berlin

The Kunstbibliothek’s archaeological department took up residency in the newly opened Archäologisches Zentrum opposite the Museumsinsel Berlin in 2012. It was formed by merging the collections of archival and research material from the major archaeological collections at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin which had evolved over more than 150 years: the Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung, the Antikensammlung, the Museum für Islamische Kunst, the Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte, and the Vorderasiatisches Museum.

The new premises now provide more than 1000 square metres in which to store and use the combined holdings of some 150,000 items that have been systematized according to international library standards and are now mostly accessible in open-shelf areas. The archaeological department of the Kunstbibliothek has been purposefully designed as a lively place of research and scholarship, in which archive and source studies, primary research with collection objects, library use and digital information sharing are all simultaneously possible.

In addition, the reading room is also open to users of the Zentralarchiv. The Zentralarchiv (Central Archive) holds historical records relating to the history of the organization known today as the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, known formerly as the Royal Museums in Berlin. It sees itself as a place of learning and at the same time as the ‘historical memory’ of the museums. The Kunstbibliothek offers users of the archive instant, open-shelf access to diverse literature on the history of the individual museums, as well as a complete collection of all catalogue and research literature published by the Royal Museums/Staatliche Museen since its inception in the year 1830. 

Titles of publication released by the Kunstbibliothek are listed in the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin bibliography.

Kunstbibliothek am Kulturforum:
Matthäikirchplatz 6
10785 Berlin

Kunstbibliothek im Archäologischen Zentrum:
Geschwister-Scholl-Straße 6
10117 Berlin

Kunstbibliothek im Museum für Fotografie:
Jebensstraße 2
10623 Berlin

Full access for persons with mobility impairment is possible via the service entrance.

Exhibitions at the Kulturforum:

Mon closed
Tue 10:00 a.m. - 6.00 p.m.
Wed 10:00 a.m. - 6.00 p.m.
Thu 10:00 a.m. - 6.00 p.m.
Fri 10:00 a.m. - 6.00 p.m.
Sat 11:00 a.m. - 6.00 p.m.
Sun 11:00 a.m. - 6.00 p.m.

Opening Time on Holiday under Plan your visit

For informations about libraries and other locations please use the following links:

Kunstbibliothek am Kulturforum
Kunstbibliothek im Archäologischen Zentrum
Lipperheidesche Kostümbibliothek
Libraries of the collections
Museum für Fotografie

Postal address:
Matthäikirchplatz 6
10785 Berlin

Tel.: +49 (0)30 / 266424141
Fax: +49 (0)30 / 266424199

Director: Prof. Dr. Moritz Wullen
Deputy Director: Dr. Joachim Brand

Museum für Fotografie

Postal address:
Jebensstrasse 2
10623 Berlin

Tel.: +49 (0)30 / 266424183
Fax: +49 (0)30 / 266424197

Head of the Collection of Photography: Dr. Ludger Derenthal

Café and restaurant at the Kulturforum
Mrs. Rave
Tel.: +49 (0)30 / 266428501

Bookshop Walther König
Tel.: +49 (0)30 / 2655 8643