Buddhist Art Library

Building’s Façade
Sekino Hall
Reading Room

The Buddhist Art Library was founded in 1980 to facilitate the creation, collection, organization, and conservation of research and resources contributing to knowledge of Buddhist art. In addition, it maintains and makes available to the public a strong collection of publications and photography. Since 1989, the books, journals, and photographs held at the Buddhist Art library have been accessible to the general public.

As a precaution taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19, we currently require that all visitors to the Library make an appointment in advance of their visit.

Arrange a Visit

Reservation Form

Approximate Numbers of Materials Available to the Public (As of March 2021)

Books: 83,940 Volumes
Journals: 3,000 Titles
Exhibition Catalogues: 16,855 Volumes
Photographs: 190,000 Plates and Prints

Library Hours

Wednesdays and Fridays from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Photocopying services end at 4:00 p.m.
Please note that the Library is closed on holidays and from December 26th to January 4th.

Our Offerings

We invite you to visit the library to read and canvass our resources; to make photocopies of historical documents; and to seek out the expertise of the archivists at the reference desk.

Using the Library

From August 7th, 2020 and for the foreseeable future, we ask that you come to the Library by way of the Nara National Museum’s offices. Please arrive at the reception desk located to the left of the Museum’s main entrance ahead of your appointment.

Library Catalogue (OPAC)

Users can search for Buddhist Art Library materials including books, journals, bulletins, reports and exhibition catalogues through our online catalogue. Books and journals can be located by title, author, or subject using the “Books/Magazines” search field. Articles in journals and exhibition catalogues can be searched by title and author using the “Article” search field.

About the Building

The Buddhist Art Library was built in 1902 as an exhibition hall for local Nara Prefecture products. It was designed by a scholar of architectural history trained as an architect named Tadashi Sekino (1867–1935). In its overall design, the building makes reference to the Phoenix Hall (Hō’ō-dō) at the Byōdō-in Temple in Uji, Kyoto Prefecture. The building is made of wood and has a double-roof of pantiles: curved overlapping roof tiles. Its façade features a porch with an undulating gable (kara hafu). The building was designed to harmonize with its Nara Park surroundings. Particularly in its elegant integration of Western and Japanese stylistic elements, it exemplifies architecture of the Meiji era (1868–1912). The building was later renamed the Nara Prefecture Commerce and Industry Exhibition Hall. In 1951, the hall’s management was transferred to the Japanese government, and until 1980 it was used as the office of the Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties.

Seismic Retrofitting

This landmark building underwent an expansive seismic retrofitting project from October, 2009 to March, 2011. As this was carried out, efforts were taken to restore the building to its former glory through a renovation grounded in cultural and historical research.

When the building was first opened in the Meiji era, the space beneath the building’s belfry-shaped roof was open, providing the North Wing with a stunning and expansive space. Wooden arches offered structural support in the elegant clerestory. There were also improvements made to facilitate the building’s present use: the Reading Room and Research Room were created, the foundation of the library was reinforced, and mobile shelving was installed.

We plan to continue in our efforts at promoting the historical and cultural value of the building moving forward, while ensuring its preservation and utilization as an important work of modern architecture. Throughout, we aim to meet the challenge of supporting and contributing to knowledge of Buddhist art.