NPG - Notes on Sitters

Scope and Content

The Notes on Sitters series is a centralised filing system for records and information where the primary subject matter concerns portraits belonging to external (ie. non NPG) collections, or portraiture generally. The series includes material of the following types: correspondence with internal and external colleagues; correspondence with members of the public, students, academics and other groups; information relating to portraits offered to the Gallery and declined; research notes; cuttings from articles in magazines, journals or newspapers; promotional material for exhibitions or collections (cards, leaflets, catalogues). The files may also include photographs and images, but in the main - where images accompanied relevant paperwork - these have been filed into a separate in a sequence of visual material called the Sitter Boxes.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Notes on Sitters record series was established c1969. The series contains material created and generated from across the Gallery but, in particular, by Curatorial; Archive & Library and Director's Office staff.

Before 1969, similar records were filed amongst correspondence organised by Trustee meeting (1857-1909); chronologically by correspondent (1909-1936); and later, by year and within year, subdivided into a 'general' and a 'portrait' sequence (1937-1969).

By the end of the 1960s the Gallery had grown considerably and it was becoming more difficult for staff to locate relevant information. For this reason, a new filing system was implemented in which records were filed entirely by subject. Four new subject series were established at this time: alongside Notes on Sitters (also called Icon Notes); there were Notes on Artists; Notes on Collections and Notes on Subjects.

The new series were much wider in scope than before: they were intended to serve as a central reference resource for all information concerning the primary subject matter. As such, they contain not just correspondence but also published material as well as many other types of relevant original records created, generated and accumulated by the Gallery in the course of its work.

The new filing system was administratively very successful for the Gallery because it allowed ready access to a wide range of material without the need for cataloguing or complicated finding-aids. For this reason, the practice of filing by subject was extended. Staff working with existing material amongst the Gallery's institutional records would - if they identified related correspondence or information in other sections of the archive - remove this and re-file it into the appropriate place in the Notes series. Consequently, although the series were established in 1969, the files contain many records which pre-date this.

In addition, when new records were received by the Archive, subject related material was often removed from its original context and filed into the relevant Notes files (for example, the research notes produced during the planning for an exhibition have often been filed into the Notes series, rather than left with other records relating to the exhibition activity).

This practice of filing by subject matter over provenance was abandoned in the early 2000s, when the importance of original order in relation to archive material was recognised and cataloguing procedure had improved sufficiently to render material catalogued in this way readily accessible. Although there is no comprehensive programme in place to review these record series, current practice is to re-patriate such 'mis-filed' records where appropriate.

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.