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William Morris Hunt Memorial Library

The founding of the Library of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston dates back to the Museum's Act of Incorporation of 1870 which outlined the creation of a library as a major goal from the start. In 1875, Mrs. Henry Kidder gave $1,000 for the purchase of books, the first designated gift in the MFA's history. The Library opened to the public in 1879 and the following year E.H. Greenleaf was hired as the first librarian. Greenleaf also served as Secretary of the Museum, Curator of the Gray Engravings, and assistant to the Director. 

The Library continued to grow throughout the early years of the MFA, aided by donations like that of Charles H. Parker, executor of the Alfred Greenough estate, who donated 946 volumes in 1886. By 1909 the Library held over 7,000 volumes and encompassed the central library as well as research libraries in each curatorial office, a model that continues in the present. In the same year, the Library was renamed the William Morris Hunt Memorial Library in gratitude to the artist's daughter Mrs. Horatio Nelson Slater for her many donations to the museum. For the next 62 years, the William Morris Hunt Memorial Library remained in a central location in the museum envisioned by architect Guy Lowell.

In the 1970s and early 1980s, the Library moved three times in the museum as the White Wing was constructed and other areas of the museum underwent renovation. The archives were established in 1987 to house the institutional history of the MFA. The Library underwent another major move in 2003 when it moved off-site to Horticultural Hall to accommodate the construction of the Art of Americas wing. Although, this move was envisioned as temporary, the Library remained at Horticultural Hall built in 1901 by architect Edmund Wheelright. In 2022, the William Morris Hunt Memorial Library moved back to 465 Huntington Avenue.

The present day William Morris Hunt Memorial Library encompasses over 467,000 volumes, 150,000 pamphlets, and 60,000 auction catalogs across nine locations. The Library supports research on the MFA's permanent collections, exhibitions, and general art history research in the wider scholarly and Boston communities.