Archives & Library

The Paul Oppé Library and Archive

Adolphus Paul Oppé (1878-1957) was an art historian and collector with a particular interest in British drawings and watercolours from the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

The acquisition of the Paul Oppé archive and library was a significant milestone in the Paul Mellon Centre’s (PMC) history. It was allocated to the Centre under the government’s Acceptance in Lieu (AiL) scheme in 2017, having been assessed by a panel of experts, and identified as having both national importance and pre-eminence in its field.

The PMC was first contacted by Paul Oppé’s granddaughter, Charlotte Oppé, in January 2017. Recognising the potential research value of the material, the archive and library team worked with the family and the Arts Council to begin to facilitate the AiL process. In July 2017, PMC staff made a visit to the family home to view the material and begin the practical planning associated with such an acquisition. On 6 October 2017 the permanent direction was signed by the secretary of state and so the plans for transfer to the PMC could be finalised.

Five members of the archive and library team went back to the Oppé family home and worked for two days to pack all the material for safe transit. The material was first transported to Harwell Document Restoration Services in Oxfordshire for conservation treatment, then delivered to the PMC in December 2018.

Now that the material was at the PMC, two cataloguing posts – for an archivist and a librarian – were advertised. Staff were appointed and in April 2019 they began work assessing, sorting, arranging and finally cataloguing the material. This process was completed in June 2020, when the catalogues were made available online and researchers were able to come and see the material.

The PMC would like to thank to the Oppé family and the Arts Council for facilitating the allocation of this unique collection.

Anyone interested in donating Archive material to the Centre should visit the acquisition page.

Boxes packed and stack containing Oppé Archive.

Boxes packed and ready for transport to Paul Mellon Centre, 2017