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Ricker Art and Architecture Library

The foundation for the Library's architecture and art collections was laid by the country's first college graduate of architecture, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign professor Nathan Clifford Ricker (1843-1924), who in 1873 purchased several important architectural treatises and folios. As his personal collection outgrew his office space, first a room, and eventually an entire wing of the Architecture Building were assigned to house the collection. By that time, his collection included not only the folios, but also a photographic collection and several rare first editions.

The Ricker Library was first housed in Engineering Hall, and opened in the Fall of 1894 (Block 2013). It was later moved to the Architecture and Kindred Spirits building ca. 1927. In recognition of this founding role, the University's Board of Trustees in 1917 authorized the Library to name the unit in Professor Ricker's honor.

Today, the collections of the Ricker Library of Architecture and Art include more than 120,000 volumes and 33,000 serials (some housed in the Library's main book stacks) 35,000 microforms, and a small but burgeoning collection of video. The holdings cover the fields of architecture, architectural history, art, art history, design, museum studies, and art education.

Some of the collection highlights include extensive holdings of exhibition catalogs from all time periods and geographic locations, information on current practicing architects, a major collection of catalogues raisonees, several large portfolios dealing with Frank Lloyd Wright, complete runs of rare nineteenth-century architecture and art journals, translations of over thirty classic works on architecture, thirty-one microfilm reels of Midwestern architectural drawings, and subscription to the Cicognara Library on microfiche.

Text courtesy Ricker Library


Ricker Library mosaic This beautiful mosaic panel bearing the Ricker Library of Architecture's name was designed and executed by Professor of Architectural Decoration, Newton Alonzo Wells. Wells also painted the murals in the rotunda of the Mathematics Library in Altgeld Hall. On May 23, 1917, the Architecture Library was dedicated to Dr. Nathan Clifford Ricker, founder of the Department of Architecture. Wells created the mosaic panel shortly after the library dedication. For many years it marked the entrance to the Ricker Library of Architecture which was then located in the north wing of the fourth floor of Engineering Hall. In 1927, the present building for Architecture and Kindred Subjects was erected, and the Ricker Library relocated to the new building. However, the mosaic panel was not installed at that time; it remained forgotten in storage where its condition deteriorated. The panel buckled and many of the glass pieces were dislodged. It continued in this sad state until the Spring of 1981 when a group of students enrolled in Visiting Professor Thomas Heinz's class in historic preservation began work on the panel. It was decided then to try to stabilize the panel in order to inhibit further deterioration. The group felt that any protective coating would diminish the dazzling play of light on its multi-faceted face. The glass pieces that had fallen off were repainted and replaced, and the missing pieces were re-fabricated. Unfortunately, due to limited time and resources, the beautifully colored ceramic pieces could not be re-fabricated. This magnificent mosaic of glass and ceramic tile has finally found its rightful home once again in the Ricker Library. It serves to remind us of Wells' artistry and of Ricker's dedication. Text from: Olin, Ruth. (n.d.). The Ricker Library Mosaic. Wall plaque. Ricker Library of Art and Architecture, Architecture Building.
Nathan Clifford Ricker bust Samuel Chatwood Burtin, an English born and educated sculptor who taught at the University of Illinois from 1912-1915 created this bronze bust in 1922. A gift from the Anthemios Chapter of Alpha Rho Chi, it was presented to Ricker in March of 1922 at a convocation celebrating his fifty years of service to the University. Ricker was the first graduate of the Department of Architecture, which he later led from 1873-1910. Ricker was also the Dean of the College of Engineering from 1878-1906, and a University architect. He designed Altgeld Hall and the Natural History building among others. Related sources: Scheinman, Muriel. (1981). Art collecting at the University of Illinois. Urbana, Illinois: the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
entrance to the Ricker library image courtesy ExploreCU team
portrait mosaic of Nathan Ricker Newton Alonzo Welles designed this portrait mosaic, as well as the Ricker Library mosaic. It was finished in 1919 and is 22 inches in diameter. Related sources: Scheinman, Muriel. (1981). Art collecting at the University of Illinois. Urbana, Illinois: the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. pp. xix
Ricker Library shelving and casts The Ricker Library contains beautiful wood shelving for much if its collection. Above many of the shelving units are plaster casts of the Parthenon frieze left over from Lorado Taft's "dream museum" that was purchased by the University in 1937.



“Ricker Art and Architecture Library,” ExploreCU, accessed June 30, 2022,