Heinz Archive and Library Volunteer Opportunities

The National Portrait Gallery’s Heinz Archive and Library is an important research facility housing library and manuscript collections, as well as a unique collection of reference material relating to British portraiture including image files that contain more than 600,000 photographic and other reproductions of portraits and an index that contains more than a million references to British portraits.

We have voluntary opportunities available to help the department maintain and develop these resources.  Training will be provided for all voluntary positions and there may be opportunities to participate in other training programmes and events organised by the Gallery.

Image Files Volunteer

The Archive & Library holds files that contain over 600,000 photographic and other reproductions of portraits.

We have multiple opportunities for volunteers to work with image files. The tasks include processing and dry-mounting portrait images and filing these images in two main sequences arranged by sitter or by artist name, and several subsidiary sequences for royal sitters, costume, professions and foreign sitters. The resource is used extensively for research purposes and is subject to constant expansion and refinement. The tasks will therefore involve ongoing file maintenance and arrangement of contents. This opportunity requires:

  • Familiarity with British portraiture or biography and interest in the work of the National Portrait Gallery
  • Ability to follow detailed directions accurately and with close attention to detail
  • Good physical mobility
  • Satisfaction in working independently

This opportunity will be available from September 2015, volunteering one day per week (probably Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday) during normal business hours. If successful you will be asked to complete a basic disclosure form. In the first instance we ask for a minimum commitment of six months, with a view to an ongoing placement.

Volunteer Library Cataloguer(s)

Sales catalogues. The Archive & Library is initiating a project to catalogue its extensive collection of sales catalogues.

We have multiple opportunities for volunteers to assist with this project. Working from a template and following detailed written instructions, volunteers will create individual library catalogue records for catalogues issued by major British and international auction houses according to accepted international standards. While suitable for anyone with an interest in recording and retrieving information, this opportunity might especially interest those considering a career in library work. This opportunity requires:

  • Interest in British portraiture, the historic art market, and in the work of the National Portrait Gallery
  • Close attention to detail and dedication to consistency
  • Ability to work independently while following detailed instructions, but judgment to seek advice when required
  • Ability to learn new computer software
  • Good skills in interrogating external online resources
  • Previous experience working in a library setting or interest in librarianship as a career is highly desirable

This opportunity will be available from September 2015, volunteering one day per week (to be agreed) during normal business hours. If successful you will be asked to complete a basic disclosure form. In the first instance we ask for a minimum commitment of six months, with a view to an ongoing placement.

Popular periodicals

We have recently received a significant gift of twentieth-century lifestyle and popular culture magazines, and plan to create complete and accurate catalogue records for these holdings. This involves physically surveying the shelves, adding and editing records on the catalogue system, and marking individual items.  We are looking for two volunteers to help with this project on a mutually agreed day under the direction of the Librarian.  This opportunity requires:

  • Interest in British portraiture and history and in the work of the National Portrait Gallery
  • Close attention to detail, appreciation for consistency, and the ability to maintain focus and consistency when performing repetitive tasks
  • Ability to work independently while following detailed instructions, but judgment to seek advice when required
  • Ability to learn new computer software
  • Previous experience working in a library setting or interest in librarianship as a career is highly desirable

This opportunity will be available from September 2015, volunteering one day per week (to be agreed) during normal business hours. If successful you will be asked to complete a basic disclosure form. In the first instance we ask for a minimum commitment of six months, with a view to an ongoing placement.

The Archive & Library has additionally undertaken an ongoing project to re-catalogue its entire library collection.

We are therefore always looking for an experienced or trained library cataloguer to join a small team responsible for retrospective cataloguing of the library collection. The library follows accepted professional standards modified slightly by local guidelines.

This opportunity requires:

  • Interest in British portraiture and history and in the work of the National Portrait Gallery
  • Experience cataloguing independently in MARC21 according to AACR2
  • Experience applying LCSH
  • Ability to learn new computer software

This opportunity would be suitable for an active retiree, for a librarian seeking experience in a different professional setting, or for a library course graduate interested in gaining pre-professional experience as a cataloguer. It would be available from September 2015, volunteering one day per week (to be agreed) during normal business hours. In the first instance we ask for a minimum commitment of six months, with a view to an ongoing placement. For this opportunity, we would, however consider shorter term, intensive placements for qualifying or paraprofessional librarians. If successful you will be asked to complete a basic disclosure form

Please apply by post, stating which opportunity interests you, which days you are available, and enclosing a copy of your curriculum vitae, to: Joseph Ripp, Librarian, National Portrait Gallery, St Martin’s Place, London WC2H 0HE. 


The closing date for all opportunities is 5:00pm on Friday, 31st July 2015.  Those who are short-listed will be contacted by Friday 14th August 2015.  We regret that we are not able to acknowledge applications due to our funding position. Informal meetings are expected to take place during the following two weeks, and the placements to begin soon thereafter.