How large is the collection?
The Primary Collection of paintings, sculpture, miniatures, drawings, prints and photographs contains some 11,100 portraits of the most famous people in British history. Of these more than 4,150 are paintings, sculptures and miniatures, approaching 60% of which are regularly displayed at the National Portrait Gallery or elsewhere. In addition, there are some 6,800 works on paper, shown on a rotating basis of about 300 items a year. Normally items not on display can readily be made available for viewing via the Collections Manager. The Collection is also made widely available via the Woodward Portrait Explorer located on the first floor and Café (basement), on the Internet and in Gallery and other publications.
The Gallery also holds Reference Collections as a national resource; they form an image bank of the nation’s famous and less famous faces. They are used for study and exhibition, and have been extensively reproduced in books and other publications. There are more than 320,000 images in the Reference Collections, divided between the Archive Collection of about 80,000 items, mainly prints but also 2,000 drawings, 60 paintings and 100 sculptures, almost all relatively modest in nature, and the Photographs Collection of more than 240,000 photographs and historic negatives. There is a Library containing 35,000 books and some manuscripts.
Increasingly the Collections are being made available on the Internet, with some 120,700 items available as at March 2009, made up of some 11,100 Primary Collection portraits and more than 109,500 from the Reference Collections, with 58,100 illustrated.