The Agnew’s Archive: collecting the history of collecting

This paper will examine the collaborations that have arisen from the National Gallery’s recent purchase of the archive of Thos. Agnew & Sons. Beginning with an overview of the development of a research strategy at the National Gallery and the establishment of the National Gallery Research Centre in 2013, the paper will explore how the acquisition of the Agnew’s Archive fits within these developments and how it is being used both to support the work of the Gallery and to develop partnerships with other organisations and the academic community. This includes both academic research projects and an exploration of the possibilities of digitisation for encouraging wider research, particularly in collaboration with other institutions holding similar archives.  The paper will consider how these collaborative ventures to open up the archive can assist our understanding of Agnew’s, the history of museums and the role of art dealers in the development of art history.

The National Gallery is a pre-eminent centre for the research of paintings in the Western European tradition from the 13th to the early 20th century. In 2013 it established a new research centre to support its research strategy and ensure that its research resources are made available to the widest possible audience, including both national and international visitors and digital users, as well as Gallery staff.  In February 2014 the Gallery acquired the Agnew’s Archive.  Dating from the 1840s to the late 20th century, it includes stock books, label books, day books, account ledgers, minutes, diaries, stock index cards, correspondence, press cuttings, title deeds, exhibition records, and negatives.  A project to catalogue the archive will begin in the summer/autumn of 2014; two collaborative research projects will begin in October 2014; and proposals to digitise part of the archive are currently being explored.

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