Library

Colour photo of a woman sitting at a table in the library

Opening times: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday 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.

Please do not come to the Library if you feel unwell or anyone in your household is showing symptoms of COVID-19.

The National Portrait Gallery’s Library supports the Gallery’s research needs. The Library holds published materials including about 35,000 books and 70 periodicals to which the Gallery subscribes. Visitors may consult these resources in the Archive and Library Public Study Room, but must make a booking to do so.

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.

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 March 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.

Heinz Archive and Library opening hours
Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10.00 to 17.00 by appointment only

020 7321 6617 (Type Talk: 18001)
[email protected]

National Portrait Gallery
St Martin's Place
London WC2H 0HE

Books and Periodicals

The book collection supports research in British portraiture, history, and biography. Its strengths include:

  • works about (and by) artists and photographers represented in the Gallery Collection (and significant figurative artists generally)
  • monographs in the history of art and photography
  • exhibition catalogues
  • biographical reference materials.

A special collection includes approximately 600 books distinguished by their age, associative significance or scarcity. The Library also holds a complete set of Gallery publications, including catalogues of the Gallery’s Collections and exhibitions, and materials contributing to the understanding of British portraiture.

Books are arranged according to a subject-based classification scheme. The majority are on open shelves freely accessible to visitors working in the Public Study Room, with the remainder available for retrieval during the course of a research visit.

Published materials added to the Library since 1994, representing about 20% of the collection, can be found by searching an electronic catalogue. Older accessions are recorded in a card catalogue – conversion of these records to an electronic form is ongoing.

The periodical collection includes most titles vital to a study of art history. In several instances complete runs of periodicals are held.

Online Resources

The Library provides access within the Gallery to a small number of electronic resources, including the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Who’s Who, JSTOR, Early English Books Online, Burney Collection of 17th and 18th Century Newspapers, some electronic journals, and useful online resources linked through the electronic catalogue.

Search the library catalogue