NPG - Registered Packets: Primary Collection Photographs

Scope and Content

The series operates as centralised filing system for all records relating specifically to the Gallery's Primary Collection of photographic portraits, i.e. the Gallery's main display collection of photographic portraits. Following the initial acquisition process, all other records created, generated or received by the Gallery concerning the portrait/s are filed into the relevant Registered Packet. The Registered Packets therefore operate as 'object files': they document the history of the portrait within its context at the Gallery.

The files contain, in the first instance, information about how the portraits were acquired by the Gallery. They may include, depending on the manner in which the work was acquired (Ie. by gift, purchase, commission, or bequest) any of the following standard documentation: offer from the donor; acceptance by the Gallery; good title; provenance; commissions contract; copy of will; copy or probate; copyright agreement. They may also include details of cost or funding, including invoice; receipt and details of any grant aid, private or public donations received.

They may also include information about conservation, including condition reports; scientific & technical analysis; receipts for work done. They may also include records concerning how the works were displayed; stored; loaned or exhibited. They may further contain information relating to research, which may pre-date the time the portraits were acquired by the Gallery.

The records detailed above may include both original and published material of the following types: correspondence with internal and external colleagues; correspondence with members of the public, academics and other groups; research notes; caption text; reports; press releases and other promotional material; cuttings from articles in magazines, journals or newspapers.

The Registered Packets may also include other types of record associated with the portraits such as: images; diaries and notes maintained by artists & sitters; video and audio recordings etc.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Gallery has maintained a series of object files - known as Registered Packets since the early years of its history. The Registered Packets begin life as offers files, in the Collections Management department. A file is opened as soon as the Gallery receives note of a potential acquisition, and all relevant paperwork generated and received during the acquisition process is filed within it. At the point that the item is formally acquired, the offers file becomes a Registered Packet. It is then transferred to the Archive.

The Primary Collection of Photographs was established in 1972. Its initiation reflected the Gallery's relatively recent recognition that photographs were an important photographic medium and demonstrated a desire to develop this area. It was at this point that the Gallery began to actively acquire photographs for the Primary Collection. It also began to review and consolidate existing holdings and as such, several photographs were 're-classified' as belonging to this new group. A new numbering system was also established - items belonging to the Primary Collection of Photographs were, and continue to be, prefixed with a 'P'.


The Registered Packets for the Gallery's Primary Collection of Photographic Portraits are organised by NPG portrait acquisition number which - apart from the first five packets - roughly relates to the chronological order in which the portraits were acquired. The first five packets reflect the fact that the Primary Collection of Portraits was established in 1973 and photographs acquired before this date were retrospectively re-classified and re-numbered, not always in chronological order of acquisition.

In most cases, each portrait has its own Registered Packet. However, in the case of group acquisitions (ie. where more than one portrait was acquired from the same source at the same time) a Registered Packet may cover all portraits in the group. In this instance the Registered Packet number will be a span, i.e. P6501-P6555.
The contents of Registered Packets are currently in the process of being divided into two sub files of records titled acquisition and conservation. The latter of these is self explanatory. The former contains, not just acquisition related information, but any other record concerning the portrait (eg. exhibition details, research information etc.).

Associated material (such as slides etc.) are physically stored separately from the main run of Registered Packet files, in conditions suitable to their particular media.

Access Information

Available to view by appointment in the Heinz Archive and Library Public Study Room, to make an appointment contact Archive Reception . Although records are generally available for public consultation, some information in them, such as personal data or information supplied to the Gallery in confidence, may be restricted.

Other Finding Aids

The complete catalogue for this archive can be searched via the NPG Archive Catalogue .

Conditions Governing Use

Personal photography is permitted for research purposes only. Photocopying is not permitted.