Heinz Archive and Library

Opening times: Tuesdays, Wednesday and Thursdays from 10.00 to 17.00 by appointment only

Through its holdings and staff expertise the National Portrait Gallery Archive and Library seeks to be the foremost centre for the study of and research into portraiture.

The Archive and Library contains three collections: Archive, Library and a Reference collection of portraits. The Archive and Library is a publicly accessible centre for the study of works held by the NPG, the study of the history of portraiture and collects material which supports these areas.

Temporary restricted access to negatives: We are currently carrying out essential maintenance on the Gallery’s negative collection stores; these negatives form an important part of the photographs collection. As such there will be no access to a large proportion of these collections until May 2024, so the Gallery cannot fulfil digitisation requests or research enquires in the meantime. Please contact us after this date and the Gallery apologies for any inconvenience this may cause.

The library’s origins are with the reference collection of books and manuscripts collected by the Director and later curatorial staff from the very first days of NPG’s foundation in 1856. The first library catalogue was published in 1860. Shortly after the gallery opened its permanent home in St Martin’s place in 1896, the extensive library, sketchbooks and correspondence of George Scharf, NPG Director between 1856 and 1895 were acquired. By the early 1980s there was no longer any space available in the St Martin’s Place building for the Archive and Library and so it was moved firstly to Carlton House Terrace and later to Lewisham.

The Heinz Archive and Library in Orange Street was opened by HRH Queen Elizabeth II in 1993 after funds from the Henry J and Drue Heinz Foundation allowed for the move of the Archive and Library collections from its Lewisham premises and the creation of a public research room.

Mrs Drue Heinz (1915-2018) was an actress, writer, publisher of The Paris Review and co-founder of Ecco Press. A philanthropist and devoted supporter of arts and culture, she also endowed a Drue Heinz Literature Prize in 1981.

Drue took a great interest and enjoyment in the National Portrait Gallery’s work and upon her death in 2018, she bequeathed the Gallery another gift which continues to support the core activities of the Heinz Archive and Library. The Director, Trustees and Staff of the National Portrait Gallery will always remember Drue, and “her generosity will help pass on the Gallery’s heritage to the next generation.”

    Drue Heinz,    by David Hockney,    2002,    NPG 6674,    © David Hockney 2002 Drue Heinz, by David Hockney, 2002

Booking and directions

The National Portrait Gallery’s Heinz Archive and Library is open by appointment to visitors who are interested in any aspect of British portraiture or in the history of the Gallery.

  • Opening times: Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10.00 to 17.00 by appointment only. We will send over detailed health and safety measures once your appointment has been confirmed. Please do not make travel arrangements until your appointment has been confirmed.
  • Appointments can be made by emailing [email protected] or calling 0207 321 6617
    Any personal data provided as part of these communications will be handled in line with our Privacy Notice.
  • The Archive and Library is located in Orange Street, behind the Gallery’s main building. On arrival visitors should report to the Reception Desk and wait to be sent through to the Archive and Library Public Study Room. First time visitors will be asked to fill in an Access Agreement Form and show identification, such as a passport or driver's licence.
  • Please do not come to the Library if you feel unwell or anyone in your household is showing symptoms of COVID-19.
  • A self-service photocopier is available (20p each for b&w copies and 30p each for colour). Visitors may also take photographs of some material, but restrictions apply.
  • All facilities are wheelchair accessible. The Public Study Room is fitted with 2 induction loops, including 1 portable facility. A large print visitor's leaflet, magnifying sheets and torches are available on request. Visitors with any special requirements should notify Archive and Library staff in advance.
  • The nearest Underground stations are Leicester Square and Charing Cross. The nearest mainline station is Charing Cross. The nearest bus stops are at Trafalgar Square.