The Hale Matthews Reference Library began with a small collection of books about New Mexican traditional arts that were stored in staff offices in downtown Santa Fe. With the opening of the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art on Museum Hill and the 2001 construction of the Stockman Collections Center to house the Society’s art and artifacts collections, a small room was developed for the library that also served as a meeting and conference room. After this formal space became available for the library, the Society’s holdings began to develop through consistent but small donations.
The library soon outgrew the assigned space with the significant donation of several thousand titles from Jan V. and Kathy Nelson who were closing their local book shop to move out of state. The library was relocated nearby to the former collections processing area where it currently resides with over 3,000 books, periodicals, archives, and ephemera.
The library includes books on Spain and Spanish Colonial art and history with a significant emphasis on art, architecture, and history of Mexico and New Mexico. Comparative topics are included with books about Asia, the Philippines, Europe, Portugal, Brazil, and other South and Latin American countries. Other subjects include folklore, song and dance, foodways, fiction, and children’s stories. Of particular interest are publications about saints and their symbols with focused books on artists and art forms, including metalwork, woodwork, textiles, and ceramics. Periodicals include New Mexico Historical Review and El Palacio. Archives of the Spanish Colonial Arts Society include materials about Spanish Market and Museum exhibitions with Society publications of books and newsletters.
The reference library offers the student and scholar a comprehensive resource on many topics of study in the Spanish Colonial world. Combining the library materials with the artifact collections establishes the Society as an unparalleled organization in northern New Mexico.