Creative Research Collaborations


The Spencer Art Reference Library has a long history of providing access to the latest scholarship in the arts for Nelson-Atkins staff, volunteers and the Kansas City region.

The collaboration between the Spencer Art Reference Library and the docent program has helped support and elevate the program. This partnership has included research assistance for both tours and personal edification, access to rare objects, study group presentations, docent-led tours for the public, as well as research education for a multi-year project for the creation of docent object files.

In this workshop, you will learn the history of the library from the library’s Director and go behind the scenes to non-public spaces to view the 270,000 volumes in the library stacks. You’ll find creative inspiration from viewing rare books such as:

  • The first description of Chinese architecture for Europeans from an 18th century traveler with the Swedish East India Company,
  • A later copy of an 11th century Chinese book detailing Buddhist funeral rites and ceremonies,
  • A 1755 book of detailed drawings of significant Egyptian sites that refutes the oft-repeated story of the Sphinx’s damaged nose,
  • A color theory book by Joseph Albers,
  • A silk screen portfolio of 26 Blackfeet Indian Tipis.

Also, view selected works from the Karen Gould Collection of Medieval Manuscript leaves.

We’ll detail the ongoing Object File project: a continuing project centralizing practical research about objects in the NAMA collection that can be used by docents to deepen knowledge or elevate tours. Docents will explain how the project began, its objectives, how to create both hard copy and digital files of your own, and some pitfalls to avoid. Handouts will be provided to help you start or improve your own docent object files.

Afterwards, you’ll bring resources alive by taking a short docent-led tour of the world-class NAMA collection connected to the rare books you’ve seen. Lastly, you’ll have some free time to explore the galleries on your own.
We hope you’ll go home with inspiration about what your own museum or city research library can help you achieve!


Bus transportation is provided to and from the hotel.


Host Institution: Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is known for its encyclopedic collection of art from nearly every continent and culture, and especially for its extensive collection of Asian art. The museum provides free access to everyone to enjoy and contemplate artistic creations from 5,000 years ago to present day. In 2007, Time magazine ranked the museum's Bloch Building number one on its list of "The 10 Best (New and Upcoming) Architectural Marvels" which considered candidates from around the globe.

 NAMA shuttlecocks

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO

Spencer Library

The Spencer Art Reference Library

Spencer Art Library3

Repreoduction of page from Frederik Ludvig Norden. Voyage d’ gypte et de Nubie, Par Frederic Louis Norden. Ouvrage Enrichi de Cartes & de Figures Dessin es Sur Les Lieux, Par l’Auteur M me. A Copenhague: Imprde la Maison Royale des Orphelins, 1755.

Gift of Jeffrey Weidman.

Spencer Art Reference1

Giovanni Battista Belzoni. Atlas des Voyages, Recherches et D couvertes de G. Belzoni en Egypte en Nubie / Traduits de l’Anglais par G.B. Depping. Paris: Librairie Fran aise et  trang re de Galignani, 1821.

Presented by Jeffrey Weidman in honor of Kate Garland and Robert Cohon.


Sign Up to Stay Informed
Keep up to date on topics of interest for docents/guides and plans for the next symposium

Join our mailing list!


Attending the 2022 Symposium in
Kansas City? 

Learn more about our city and events
on our Facebook and Instagram pages:


facebookLike Us!


2022 instagram logo Follow Us!

Traveling with a guest? 
Check out our page of information
and activities for traveling companions
Get to Know Us In Kansas City!!  
Visit our museum website at:

in association with: