NPG - Education Records

Scope and Content

The following materials can be found in the Education Records:
- public lecture case files
- teaching materials and activity pamphlets relating to school activities
- survey of visits by schools
- policy and planning documentation
- minutes of meetings, notes and outcomes of Young Peoples Programmes
- publicity material.

Administrative / Biographical History

The history of educational activities at the National Portrait Gallery stretches back to 1870, when the Gallery premisis at the South Kensington Museum first opened its doors to copyists - individuals who made copies of portraits from the Collection. The Gallery continued to support this self-learning activity for most of the twentieth century: the last copyists being admitted in the early 1980s.

In 1921 a more formal education programme was introduced. A total of fifteen school visits were made in this year. In 1922, a guide lecturer was appointed and a formal lecture series began. Two lectures were given every afternoon on weekdays: the first for students, the second for the general public.

These basic education activities continued until the mid 1960s, when the Gallery began to formalise and further develop its education programme. By 1965 three main education activities were offered: guided tours of the Primary Collection of portraits for school pupils studying history; a lunchtime summer lecture series for adults; and subject-specific lectures for school parties by arrangement. Between 1966 and 1967 these activities were expanded to include an experimental course of evening lectures. The first steps towards a dedicated education service had been taken.

In 1970 an Education Department was established. This was part of the wider Publications and Education section, overseen by one the Gallery's Deputy Keepers. At the outset the Education Department was staffed by one Research and one Museum Assistant, with part-time help. By September of the same year an Education Officer had been appointed; and a demonstration room and offices were established in the East Wing of the Gallery.

By 1971 the Education Department was up and running. The new improved services on offer included visits for students and adults; as well as visits and holiday events for children including supervised afternoon activities and unsupervised competitions.

From 1976 onwards, the Education Department organised temporary exhibitions which were held in Education Department space. The aim of these was to support and inspire those engaging in specific education activities and showcase the work produced by participants. These temporary exhibitions/displays continue to this day.

By 1980 the Education Department had ceased to be part of a dual section with Publications under the supervision of a Deputy Keeper. It became a separate entity, and the post of Head of Education was created. Guided school visits remained the largest aspect of the department's activities into the 1980s, augmented by sixth-form lectures, public lectures and holiday projects for children.

The appointment of staff with a practical art teaching background in 1982-1983 allowed further development of the Department's activities, encouraging members of the public and school groups to try creating portraits for themselves. It was in this same period that the first lectures were given in the newly refurbished and air-conditioned Lecture Room. In Jan 1985 the Education Department relocated to the basement of the East Wing, gaining the use of a new studio, display area, cloakroom for groups and slide storage system.

In 1994-1995 the Clore studio and darkroom opened, allowing for further development of practical art activities for members of the public. The role of the Department increasingly lay in developing activities devised to attract 'New Audiences': groups who were not traditional Gallery visitors. This resulted in many innovative programmes including an evening lecture series related to exhibitions; Clore Studio activities; interactive exhibitions to involve audiences of all ages in creating portraiture; photography workshops for 15-20 year olds; touch trails for the visually impaired; and practical art activities for the disabled.

The period 1999 to 2000 saw further expansion of this access and outreach work. The Education pages of the Gallery's website were significantly developed to showcase results of practical art activities and offer distance learning exercises for teachers to download. The opening of the Ondaatje Wing Theatre in 2000 enabled development of existing daytime and weekend events schedules and the addition of a Thursday evening programme.

In 2004, to reflect these developments, the Education Department was restructured and renamed. It became the 'Learning and Access department'. New posts were created with an increased specialisation in specific audiences, methods of delivery and participation. The Department continues to develop and provide a variety of schools, access and outreach and public programmes for adults, families and young people.

The purpose of the Access and Learning department is primarily to explore history, art and photography through portraiture. It aims to draw the attention of the public to the Gallery's Collections, exploring the context and significance of portraiture and British history in general.

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.