At a time of such palpable energy for the arts in Norfolk, a full exploration of the city’s art resources becomes an ever more valuable enterprise.
Indeed, there is a brilliant treasury of art knowledge that beckons our curiosity and patronage, where you can create and contribute to local artists’ legacies, perform research on practically any artist, and view unique articles chronicling the history of the arts in Norfolk.
The Jean Outland Chrysler Library (JOCL), the Chrysler Museum of Art’s collection of art history volumes, is considered one of the finest art libraries in the South. Its naming commemorates Jean Outland Chrysler’s years of dedication organizing the library’s materials into an intelligible and accessible collection. Mrs. Chrysler and her husband Walter P. Chrysler Jr. are also the namesakes of the Chrysler Museum.
Previously housed in the museum itself, the JOCL partnered with Old Dominion University and moved to its campus in 2014. The JOCL now resides at 47th and Monarch Way in ODU’s Barry Arts Building. On the first floor, you will find the library framed behind a wall of clear glass—an allusion to the museum’s expansive glass art collection.
A few items of note which may enhance your experience at the JOCL:
● Like the Chrysler Museum, the JOCL is free to enter
● The JOCL is open to the public Tuesday through Thursday, 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., but appointments can be set outside of those times. Email librarian Allison Termine at email@example.com to set something up
● You do not have to be an ODU student or Chrysler Museum member to utilize the JOCL
● The JOCL is non-circulating, meaning materials cannot leave the library
● You may photograph most items for personal or research use, and a limited amount of copies can be made. Materials can also be compiled by staff ahead of time
● There are no works of art from the Chrysler Museum on display at the JOCL
● Feel free to also check out this list of frequently asked questions that the JOCL can and cannot answer
● If the JOCL’s door is not open, ring the doorbell and someone will happily let you in
Once you arrive, a curved wooden desk surrounded by books will greet you near the entrance. Beyond the desk are dozens of rolling stacks that form the cornerstone of the library’s collection. Access to the stacks is restricted, but their world of knowledge is available to everyone. The JOCL contains over 300,000 volumes with a special focus on materials relevant to the museum’s permanent art collection. Indeed, the entire history of world art is represented by this library in some form. Aside from its principle collection of art history books, the JOCL has periodicals on art, architecture, and craft industries, antiques appraisal guides, electronic access to research databases, arts organizations’ archives, antique sheet music, as well as several hundred art history documentaries and films.
The library is also the steward of a nationally known collection of M. Knoedler and Co. Ltd. art auction catalogs—volumes containing art exhibition, ownership, and auction sales histories. Although these catalogs may seem dry to some, they are crucial instruments in determining the provenance and value of art objects. There are thousands of these catalogs dating from 1827 to the present day, and they are available to anyone investigating a work of art.
Local history treasures abound at the library as well. There you will find the majority of the Moses Myers Family Papers, drawn from five generations of Myers family members who lived in the Moses Myers House. The JOCL holds many of the personal and business correspondences, property records, family books, and business documents of Norfolk’s first Jewish settler and his family. Some of these documents date back to the 1700’s.
Another interesting item at the JOCL is a set of grey cabinets replete with information packets on individual artists. Those cabinets contain organized folders on over 10,000 artists—packets of artists’ ephemera, from exhibition programs and handwritten letters, to newspaper articles and photographs. These pieces of history, both personal and professional in nature, have percolated into the JOCL over time and are now being preserved for your access.
They also offer a unique opportunity to local artists and art enthusiasts; if you would like to contribute to an existing artist file or even create a new one, you can! Bring an artist’s exhibition program or writings—any work on paper except for actual works of art—to the JOCL and those items will be filed away and preserved for posterity. The library encourages this practice as a means of upholding the legacy and history of artists and their work.
One of the library’s most intriguing collections come in the form of large, unassuming binders. From 1920 until 1988, an unknown person meticulously clipped and arranged newspaper articles documenting the cultural arts in Norfolk, which were mounted chronologically and housed in 27 of these oversized scrapbooks. They contain thousands of original newspaper articles chronicling the creation of arts organizations, lecturers and exhibits, stories of interracial conflict and collaboration in the arts, profiles of the region’s opera principals, controversies in the arts, editorials from local artists, arts programming, new art museum purchases, etc. These scrapbooks are finely curated studies that offer distinct, public visions of how Norfolk engaged the arts community over the last century. Stop by the JOCL and request a viewing. You won’t regret it.
The Jean Outland Chrysler Library is an invaluable collection of resources that hosts a rich narrative of human history and expression. It is a place to examine curiosities and the academic, to question works of art and be inspired by them, and to learn more about the arts while, perhaps, learning a bit more about yourself in the process.