The Research Library at the Getty Research Institute focuses on the history of art, architecture, and archaeology with relevant materials in the humanities and social sciences. The range of the collections begins with prehistory and extends to contemporary art. Presently, the collections are strongest in the history of western European art and culture in Europe and North America; however, in recent years, they have expanded to include other areas, such as Latin America, Eastern Europe, and selected regions of Asia.
The general library collections (secondary sources) include over one million volumes of books, periodicals, and auction catalogs. The literature of art history, the methods and materials of artistic production, and conservation are core areas of the holdings in classical antiquities, medieval and Renaissance art, sculpture and the decorative arts, prints and drawings, and photography. The conservation collection includes more than 45,000 titles and 60,000 volumes of primary and secondary sources related to the conservation, management, and protection of cultural property from paintings to architecture.
The special collections contain rare and unique materials in selected areas of art history and visual culture. Predominately works on paper, these collections include rare books, prints, and photographs. Archives, manuscripts, sketchbooks, and albums provide perspectives on artistic production, illuminating intellectual exchanges that fostered creative collaborations. More recent acquisitions focus on art and architecture in Southern California, revealing Los Angeles's significant role in the postwar era.
The Photo Study Collection contains approximately two million study photographs of art and architecture from the ancient world through the 20th century. The library also maintains a copy of the Princeton Index of Christian Art, an iconographic index of Early Christian and medieval art objects. The Research Library supports its own conservation laboratory dedicated to the preservation of Research Institute collection materials, and is home to the Getty Institutional Archives.