G.B.L. Wilson Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The main part of the collection comprises the huge photographic archive which contains some 35,000 prints and their corresponding negatives. In addition there are 24 'car visitor books' - autograph books containing a photo and message from all of the professional dancers or choreographers who travelled in one of Wilson's favoured Rover cars between 1949 and the early 1980s. Other material includes notes, corrections and working copies of his Dictionary of Ballet (1957); autographed menu cards and various posters and prints connected with his lecturing.

Administrative / Biographical History

George Buckley Laird Wilson (known as GB to his friends), became an enthusiastic follower of ballet when he befriended Arnold Haskell and the young Beryl Grey in the early 1940s. Wilson began photographing ballet in 1941. His enthusiasm and his ability to build lasting friendships gave him access to dancers not only in performance situations but also off-stage, in rehearsals and at social functions, in the UK and abroad. Once the second World War was over, Wilson's photographs began to appear in publications such as The Ballet Annual and Ballet Today , and in 1957 he began his regular 'Off-Stage' column in the Dancing Times which continued until his death in 1984. The huge photographic archive that Wilson accumulated over forty years was bequeathed to the Royal Academy of Dance.

In 1957 the first edition of Wilson's Dictionary of Ballet was published by Penguin, and it went on to be revised and republished twice in hardback in 1961 and 1974.

Access Information

Access by appointment only: Contact Us

Other Finding Aids

Detailed spreadsheets are available here: GBL Wilson Collection

More than 5000 images from the archive have now been digitized and are available for viewing on the Arenapal Website: ArenaPAL