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National Gallery Archive

The National Gallery Archive contains records of the Gallery's activities from its foundation in 1824 to the present day. The archive holds public records generated by the Gallery itself, and private papers relating to individuals or activities closely associated with the Gallery.

The records document the history of pictures in the Gallery's collection. They also record the history and development of the Gallery as an institution.

The records are wide in scope and include:

  • Minutes of the Board of Trustees meetings
  • Annual reports
  • Administrative correspondence
  • Internal memoranda and reports
  • Publications by and about the Gallery
  • Exhibition records
  • Photographs
  • Press cuttings
  • Architectural plans
  • Publicity material.

Search the Archive 

It is possible to search the Archive online. 

Or, please contact the Research Centre about making an appointment to consult archive material.

Public records

The records of the National Gallery are public records and relate to all areas of the Gallery's activities, including the:

  • Management of pictures in the collection: acquisition, exhibition, picture conservation, scholarship and research
  • Development of the building
  • Development of curatorial, conservation and specialist professions
  • Policies on public access, education of children, students and adults
  • Relations with other galleries and museums in Britain and worldwide
  • Key members of staff, including Charles Lock Eastlake, William Boxall and Kenneth Clark
  • Relationship with the contemporary art community
  • State sponsorship of art
  • Wartime evacuation of the pictures

Further material relating to the administration of the National Gallery can be found in Government records, for example in the archives of the Ministry of Works. For more information, visit the website of the National Archives [external link].

The National Gallery Archive also includes records relating to the foundation and early administration of Tate and its collection. For further information on the Tate Archive go to: [external link].

Private papers

The Archive also contains collections of private papers, relating to staff or Trustees of the Gallery, and to private picture collections.

The private papers include:

  • Sir Charles Lock Eastlake, travel notebooks. As Director of the National Gallery, 1855 – 1865, Eastlake travelled throughout Europe, making detailed notes of pictures in private and public collections.
  • Abraham Hume, correspondence relating to his activities as an art collector 1787 – 1805
  • Sir William Boxall, Director of the National Gallery 1866 – 1874, and portrait painter. Extensive correspondence relating to his Directorship, family and social life. Includes travel diaries observing pictures in private and public collections in Europe, and correspondence with Sir Edwin Landseer
  • Ralph Nicholson Wornum, Keeper of the National Gallery 1855 – 1877. Extensive papers, spanning 1830s – 1870s: relating to Gallery administration, and the Swedenborg Movement. Includes a detailed diary of daily activities at the Gallery, 1855 – 1877
  • Philip Hendy, Director of the National Gallery 1946 – 1967. Papers relating to his Directorship of Leeds City Art Gallery and its wartime evacuation, post-war recovery of the National Gallery, and the development of the Israel Museum 1967 – 1970

The Archive does not hold collections of artists' papers, but correspondence with many artists, such as Edwin Landseer, Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, is scattered throughout the Gallery's records and the private papers.