The Centre collects archive material relating to the study of British art and architectural history. The collections contain the research papers of art historians, many of whom were pioneers in the formation of this discipline.

The Archive Collections held at the Centre are formed of two groups: Collected Archives and Institutional Archives

The Collected Archives

These consist mainly of the research papers of art historians, many of whom were pioneers in the formation of this discipline. The majority of the material concerns the study of seventeenth-and eighteenth-century British art, with a small amount also pertaining to the sixteenth-nineteenth century. The Collections also include material on foreign artists in England. 

As well as containing important original research and information on artists, the archives are a rich resource for the study of provenance, collections and collecting. They also chart the historiography of British art history, and reveal the networks of scholars, curators, dealers, collectors, publishers, museums and societies that shaped discourses on artistic practice, often resulting in major publications and exhibitions. 

Cataloguing of these collections is an ongoing process and we have produced boxlists for most of the Centre’s uncatalogued collections. However, if you find that you are unable to search the archive you are interested in, please contact collections staff.

Institutional Archives

These comprise records created by the Paul Mellon Centre, and its predecessor the Paul Mellon Foundation, in the course of its everyday business. These records relate to all aspects of business, and also include records concerning the establishment of the both the Foundation and Centre, policy and planning, and staff. 

Many of the records contain personal data (information about living individuals) and for this reason are closed to the public. Records that are open include those compiled in relation to the Dictionary of British Art (reference PMC35/2), a publishing project which was discontinued. Records which are already in the public domain are also open for researchers including Annual Reports (PMC3), Newsletters (PMC7), Press-cuttings (PMC8) and General Publicity Records (PMC10).

The Centre documents the memories, experiences and opinions of those who have been closely associated with its development through the collection of oral histories (PMC59). Excerpts of these interviews are embedded throughout this site, particularly in those pages that relate to the history of the institution.

The Paul Mellon Centre seeks to acquire records worthy of permanent preservation relating to the study and research of British Art and Architecture (16th-20th century). For further information, please see the Archive Collection Policy Statement.