Journals and indexes from the Oliver Millar Archive

What are the journals?

Throughout his career and in particular whilst in his role as Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures, Oliver Millar had privileged access to public and private collections in the UK and abroad. In order to record what he saw during these visits, he maintained a series of journals. The 46 journals have not been digitised. The Paul Mellon Centre takes its responsibility as a custodian of personal information very seriously and - as the journals contain information about collections in private hands - readers wishing to consult these items still need to visit the Centre in person. They will be required to complete and sign a Reader Registration form which addresses the relevant data protection considerations.

The journals can be divided into two groups. 

Series 1: Visits in the UK

Journals: Visits in the UK The first group of twenty four journals, which date from 1945-2006, contain Millar’s notes on his visits to public and private collections and exhibitions in the UK. He also used them to record visits to sale rooms and between 1984-1995 this information was recorded in a separate journal, titled ‘S’. The journals in this series are titled with Roman numerals, I-XXIII, with the additional journal titled ‘S’. 

A list can be found below.

Series 2: Visits Abroad

Journals: Visits Abroad The second group of twenty two journals contain Millar’s notes on his visits abroad. These journals are titled by the name of the country, with Roman numerals to indicate where more than one has been completed, for example, Spain I & Spain II. 

A list of these can be found below.

What kind of information can I find in the journals?

Initially both groups of journals were used primarily to record information about portraits of the Stuart period where no catalogue was otherwise available, but this remit seems to have been relaxed in later years to include notes on collections, exhibitions and sales where information was already in the public domain. Sometimes Millar’s notes are extensive, running to many pages for a single visit. In other instances they are relatively brief. The information is generally organised by portrait, with the name of the work and the artist listed and underlined on the left hand side of the page, followed by Millar’s impression and views on the work. On many occasions, the information for each visit is organised by location, so the entries themselves feel like a tour of the particular house or collection at the time the pictures were viewed.

In addition to a written account, Millar’s notes sometimes includes a visual representation of what he saw: entries occasionally include sketches of works of art and their decorative surroundings. The journals are also frequently interleaved with additional research notes, correspondence, published information, postcards and so on.

Journal IV

Oliver Millar Archive, Journal IV, pp. 56–57

The indexes

In order to render the information in the journals readily accessible Millar maintained two indexes:

The first is an Index to Journals of Collections, etc. This index covers the twenty three journals recording visits in the UK. Please note, this does not include entries for the sale rooms (e.g. Sotheby’s, Leger etc.) or foreign collections – information about such visits was only indexed by artist.

The second is an Index of Artists' Names. This index covers all forty six notebooks recording visits to UK collections and salerooms, as well as visits abroad.

Please note, the index does not include an entry for Van Dyck. This is because Millar tended to record information about works by this artist in a series of seven additional journals. A full list of the Van Dyck journals is available below.

What has been digitised & why?

Only two items from the archive, the indexes described above, have been digitised. This is an experiment and we recognise that the pages may take time to load. However, we are keen to receive feedback in order to improve this feature (as technology allows). 

Our aim, in making the indexes available online is to allow researchers to identify whether the journals themselves hold information of interest. It will then be necessary to visit the Centre to read the relevant entries. 

What next/How to make an appointment to consult the journals?

In order to consult the notebooks themselves to read what Millar recorded about the Collection or artist of interest, you will need to make an appointment in the Paul Mellon Centre’s Public Study Room. You should cite exactly which journals you would like to view (e.g. Notebook XI; Italy III) and give at least 48 hours notice so that staff can ensure the relevant material is available during your visit. A maximum of 5 journals can be requested in advance, but there will be the opportunity to order more – should you need to - during your visit.

Tell me more about the Oliver Millar Archive

The journals and indexes form only a very small part of the wider Oliver Millar Archive. Cataloguing of this collection is currently ongoing, but a box list is available. If you can't find what you are looking for, please contact Research Collections staff.

More about the project

These digital facsimiles reflects the Centre’s ambition to make its archive material available to the widest possible audiences. Alongside an ongoing cataloguing plan, which will eventually embrace all the archive collections held at the Centre ensuring that detailed information about them is available online, we are working with internal and external colleagues to investigate additional means of opening up our collections. We are also keen to gather the views of our users. 

Please let us know if you have any feedback.