NPG - Exhibition Case Files

Scope and Content

The exhibition case files include records relating to every aspect of planning and staging an exhibition. Exhibitions held in the early years of the Gallery's history (1929-1960s) have generated limited paperwork. In most cases this has been organised into a single file titled 'Proposal and planning '.

Exhibitions held in later years have produced a great deal of information. The records have been divided as follows:

1. Proposal and planning - including correspondence with internal and external curators; contracts; picture lists; panel texts and captions; and other interpretive material
2. Lenders - including correspondence with lenders; loan agreements; conservation information and condition reports
3. Financial Management - including high level budget information; sponsorship details; post exhibition evaluation reports
4. Design and Graphics - including plans; layout; colour schemes; correspondence with designers; contractors etc.
5. Education Events - including workshop, conference, study day etc. related material
6. Publicity Events and Leaflets - includes leaflets; private and press view cards; flyers; event listings; and other material relating to launches; unveilings; dinners etc.
7. Visitor information - includes visitor figures and comments/feedback
8. Tour - includes all information relating to touring exhibitions

The exhibition records also include installation shots: images taken of the exhibition in situ (ie. images of how the exhibition looked/the works on display; rather than images of the individual works themselves). The installation shots include slides, negatives, photographs, contact sheets, black and white and colour prints showing mainly interior installation shots of exhibitions held at the National Portrait Gallery. Most relate to exhibitions held in the Gallery's main buildings at Charing Cross. However, a small selection relate to exhibitions shown at Carlton House Terrace (one of the Gallery's alternative sites during the 1970s - 1980s): these files are marked CHT. The installation shots start in earnest from 1973, only two files exist before this date: these relate to the South African War Artists exhibition in 1943 and the Beaton exhibition in 1968-69.

Exhibitions also typically generate the following published/printed material which have been managed and catalogued as the following three separate record series: posters; press-cuttings; Exhibition catalogues.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Gallery first began staging 'exhibitions' in the late 1920s. At this time, the exhibitions consisted mainly of works from the Gallery's own Collections brought together for display. The majority of such displays were organised to publicise new acquisitions or to celebrate anniversaries and events.

The Gallery's exhibition programme continued in this vein until the 1940s when - in response to the wartime situation - it staged a series of exhibitions featuring works created by members of the Armed Forces and official Second World War Artists. These exhibitions were mostly curated by non-Gallery staff.

It was not until 1963 that the Gallery held its first fully designed exhibition, featuring loans from external collections. The exhibition was called: 'The Winter Queen: Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia and her Family' and was a huge success. From this point onwards the number and size of exhibitions has continued to grow. The first photographic exhibition (of Cecil Beaton's work) was held in 1968 and in 1971 additional Gallery space was sought to accommodate the growing exhibition programme.

Today the Gallery organises several major shows each year, featuring works from within the Collections and also items on loan from other institutions and private owners. It also houses two exhibitions each year featuring works entered for the Portrait Award (since 1980) and Photographic Portrait Prize (since 1994) competitions.

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.