Stained Glass Resource Acquired by the Centre: The Library and Archive of Michael Kerney

  • 9 October 2023

The Paul Mellon Centre is delighted to announce that it has acquired the Kerney Library and Archive. Dr Michael Kerney (1934–2022) was an acknowledged authority on the history of English stained glass of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This acquisition is a particularly valuable addition to the Centre’s holdings as it enriches and augments existing material on architectural history and decorative arts.

The Kerney Library and Archive joins the Paul Joyce and Gavin Stamp collections to create a superlative resource for the study of Victorian church architecture and decorative arts. It is the first donation received by the Centre that is focused on stained glass. It also encompasses church architecture from the medieval period to the present day. In addition to historians of art and architecture, this collection will provide a valuable resource for restoration architects, conservators and the custodians of church buildings. It furthers the Centre’s ongoing mission to support expert, scholarly and in-depth research.

Dr Kerney had a distinguished academic career as a natural scientist at Imperial College London. Following his retirement, he devoted over thirty years to the detailed study of Victorian (and later) architecture and decorative arts with a particular focus on stained glass. In 2001 he published a monograph with RIBA and the Ecclesiological Society on Frederick Preedy: The Stained Glass of Frederick Preedy (1820–1898): A Catalogue of His Designs. He was a regular contributor to the Journal of Stained Glass and became an honorary fellow of the British Society of Master Glass Painters.

The library comprises almost two hundred books and journals and over five hundred pamphlets and small publications collected by Kerney to support his research interests in Victorian stained glass and church architecture. The books, journals, trade catalogues and pamphlets cover such subjects as stained-glass techniques, the history of stained glass, glass artists of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and the history and architecture of Victorian churches. The pamphlets, which are often rare, were collected by Kerney on his regular visits to churches conducted throughout his life, frequently in conjunction with the Victorian Society. Some of the library material is annotated in Kerney’s hand. Rare items from the collection include: Hedgeland, J. (1830) A Description, Accompanied by Sixteen Coloured Plates, of the Splendid Decorations Recently Made to the Church of St. Neot, in Cornwall. London: Printed for J.P. Hedgeland; Whittock, N. (1827) The Decorative Painters' and Glaziers' Guide. London: G. Virtue; and A Concise Account of the Principal Works in Stained Glass That Have Been Executed by Thomas Willement. (1840) [Place of publication not identified]: Printed for private distribution.

The archive comprises material created and collected by Kerney throughout the thirty years he devoted to the study of English stained glass and church architecture. The most notable aspect of the collection are fourteen notebooks in which he recorded details of the stained glass he saw during visits to churches across the country from 1992–2002. Alongside information about subject matter, these may also include details of, and notes about, the designer, colour, glazing, restoration, date and location of stained-glass windows. The archive also includes extensive correspondence with scholars and experts in the field, as well as research notes and other material related to his published output.

Michael Kerney’s Library and Archive were kindly donated by the executors of his estate and are available for consultation by appointment in the Centre’s Public Study Room.

The books and journals have been logged on the Library and Photographic Archive catalogue and the pamphlets and small publications will be added in the coming months.

The Kerney Archive has not yet been catalogued but a box list is available. For more information on the Paul Mellon Centre’s collections see here.