Access to the College Green area of campus will be restricted until further notice. PennCard holders and some Penn affiliates may enter and exit Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center through the Rosengarten Undergraduate Study Center on the ground floor, and may enter and exit the Fisher Fine Arts Library through the 34th Street entrance to Meyerson Hall. See our Service Alerts for details.

This policy governs the activities of the Materials Library in the Fisher Fine Arts Library. The collection contains thousands of material samples that serves academics, designers, material scientists, and engineers.

Accordion List

The Materials Library is located on the ground floor of the Fisher Fine Arts Library. The collection is intended for hands-on exploration of material culture including, but not limited to, ceramics, composites, glass, naturals, and polymers. The Materials Library serves academics from a range of disciplines including architects, art historians, city and regional planners, designers, engineers, historic preservationists, landscape architects, and material scientists, as well as general enthusiasts who seek inspiration. Patrons are encouraged to interact with the materials to discover their properties, explore how materials could be used for their designs, understand the history of material creation and use, and further their own research. All images stored in the Materials Library digital collection are Open Access for researchers to reuse freely.

The collection hosts over 8,000 materials organized into five primary compositional categories: ceramics, composites, glass, naturals, and polymers. Two distinct collecting areas in artist materials and textiles are also featured. Environmentally friendly and sustainable materials in each of these compositional categories are of utmost interest to the collection.

Collecting for the Materials Library began in June 2017 under then Director Hannah Bennett’s charge to solicit donations of materials to form a critical mass for the new collection. Fisher staff, primarily working with the Materials Library and the Fisher Library image collection, proceeded with the initial aim to collect a variety of material resources. Early collecting was guided by research using the databases Materia (now Material District) and Material ConneXion. There was a noted interest in gathering cutting-edge materials that would attract patrons to the collection. 

After developing the initial iteration of the Materials Library, Fisher staff noticed the collection was skewed toward product and interior design. Staff expanded their research outlets to include architectural and material science newsletters, blogs, and more. Library staff also began exploring discipline-specific resources based on feedback from the primary users of the Materials Library: faculty and students. Material samples that were particularly popular with these users during class visits were also pursued for further collection enrichment. This combination of direct and observed feedback from users informs the backlog of wish list resources to acquire for the collection as budget allows.

This evolution in collection development encouraged the acquisition of raw resources and tools used to produce finished materials as to better illuminate different stages of the design material lifecycle. These changes introduced prominent materials from history, like art historical pigments and tools; innovative materials, like biomimetic antifouling coatings; and sustainable materials to the collection. The success of the first year of the Materials Library was awarded a Pillars of Excellence honorable mention at the Models of Excellence awards. 

The Materials Library can be accessed in person by appointment or remotely via our online database which includes images and material descriptions. We continue to actively investigate and collect new, innovative materials with an emphasis on sustainable, recycled, eco-friendly, and healthy materials. Another avenue for new acquisitions is to provide curricular support for the Stuart Weitzman School of Design by collecting material samples that satisfy faculty instructional needs. We invite patrons of all types to submit requests for new samples or areas of collecting.

Chronological  

This collection covers historic materials and ways of making in addition to new and innovative materials. The temporal scope of the collection is not limited by any time period.

Formats  

The Materials Library preserves a wide range of formats and is not limited to any one type. The collection predominantly includes materials that fall into the following compositional categories: artist materials, ceramics, composites, glass, naturals, polymers, and textiles. The primary limitations on format are isolated to materials of a size that are too large to be stored on our shelves or in our flat files, those requiring cold storage or other temperature regulations, large-scale donations that require dedicated storage beyond our existing shelving, and samples over 100 pounds that staff are unable to move by hand.

Geographical  

The contents of the collection are globally diverse and intended to represent materials across many geographic locations and cultures. 

Language  

Most of the collection is non-textual. Promotional materials provided by material vendors are predominantly in English, but the collection accepts informational resources in any language. 

The Materials Library sources its contents directly from artists, architects, large and small manufacturers, distributors, labs, product designers, industrial designers, and independent designers. There is no one-stop service or store for acquiring design materials in bulk. Therefore, staff often browse websites and social media profiles, contact published scholars researching new technologies, and write to third-party commercial retailers for samples. Materials are acquired by donation and purchase. The acquisition of new material is supported by the Fine Arts One-Time Fund.