Archives & Library

About Our Collections

History of the Archives & Library

The Paul Mellon Centre has been collecting Archives, Library and Photographic Archives material since its predecessor institution – the Paul Mellon Foundation – was established in 1964. The different collections are closely interrelated and are accessed by audiences all over the world.

Subject Strengths

The Centre collects material concerning British art and architecture of all periods with particular focus on the Middle Ages to the present day. It is also a specialist archive repository collecting the papers of art historians.

Particular subject strengths are: British artists; collecting and patronage; the Grand Tour; the study of art history in the UK; collections of British art; and the country house.

The main emphasis is on the art and architecture of the British Isles, including Ireland; however, material on artists working in the British tradition throughout the world is also acquired.

Who Uses Our Collections?

The Archives & Library collections are used by a wide range of audiences: scholars and academics; students; curators and museum professionals; authors and picture researchers; family historians; members of the art trade; artists; journalists; and private individuals.

How Are Our Collections Used?

The Archives & Library collections are used in a variety of contexts which include, but are not limited to: academic study such as A levels, undergraduate and postgraduate degrees; teaching and research by university, museum and gallery professionals; information and images for books, journal articles and the media; investigating provenance of objects for sale at auction or in a private gallery; genealogical and family history; and historic building, planning and conservation research.

Overview of the Archives & Library Collections

The Archives & Library consist of the following collections:


A reference Library covering the history of British art and architecture of all periods.


A series of Collected Archives acquired from outside the Centre, predominantly comprising of the papers of art historians, auction houses and museum/gallery professionals.

An Institutional Archive, comprising of the records created by the Paul Mellon Centre in the course of its everyday work and selected for permanent preservation because of their long-term historical value.

Photographic Archives

The Paul Mellon Centre Photographic Archive, a digital resource containing reproductions of British paintings from 1500–1920.

The Tate Photographic Archive, formerly an internal resource created by curatorial staff at the Tate containing reproductions of British works of art from 1500–2000.

Accessing the Archives & Library

There are four main ways to access the Archives & Library collections: