The Whitechapel Gallery’s archives hold records generated by the Gallery in the course of its activities since its founding in 1901. The holdings include rare documents, artist’s letters, photographs, graphic works, press records, exhibition and installation plans, publications, recordings on tape and videos of artists, critics and curators. These materials are organised into several categories and researchers may click on a collection’s unique reference number to access the records’ description on the online catalogue. The following is a list of contents held by the Whitechapel Gallery Archive:
(WAG/EAR) Pre-1947 Gallery accounts including records related to the Gallery’s establishment 1893 – 1901 (WAG/EAR/1), directors’ and secretaries’ correspondence (WAG/EAR/2), financial accounts (WAG/EAR/3) and records of our first exhibition (WAG/EAR/4).
(WAG/DIR) Spanning the period 1947 to present, this series contains the personal files of Whitechapel Gallery directors. These provide an overview of the thinking behind exhibition planning, fundraising and the organisation’s identity. They include files of unrealised exhibitions, administration, finance and unique correspondence with artists. These papers are organized chronologically by directors: Hugh Scrutton, 1947 – 1952, Bryan Robertson, 1952 – 1969, Mark Glazebrook 1969 – 1971, Jennie Stein 1971 – 1974, Jasia Reichardt 1974 – 1976 and Nicholas Serota 1976 – 1988, Catherine Lampert 1988 – 2001, Iwona Blazwick 2001 – present.
The exhibition files have been maintained systematically and date from 1947 – to present (WAG/EXH/2). They typically contain correspondence with artists, galleries, owners of works, records on hanging, catalogues, transport, sponsorship, insurance and condition reports. The Exhibition Files also contain the sub-category of Tape/Slide Production (WAG/EXH/3) which includes correspondence and scripts regarding the production of the tapes/slides which are housed within the Audio-visual Materials.
(WAG/PHOT) The main series of photographic records begins in 1900 and contains photographs of exhibitions and artworks, press, building shots as well as photographs from private views and other Whitechapel events.
The principal series is the exhibition catalogues from 1882 (WAG/PUB/1) including the Director’s bound set (WAG/PUB/1/D); posters for exhibitions from 1956 (WAG/PUB/2); press cuttings maintained intermittently from 1897 and systematically from 1948 (WAG/PUB/4); and the guard books maintained from 1949, containing ephemera and printed publicity from each exhibition (WAG/PUB/5).
This series begins in 1979 when the Education Department was formally founded and contains mainly individual artists’ projects with local schools and recent records of other education events and projects (WAG/EDU). Prior to 1979 all files related to education can be found under Exhibition Files.
The collection of audio-visual material includes recordings of talks, conferences and other events held at the Whitechapel Gallery, interviews with artists and curators and audio-visual documentation of past exhibitions. As the cataloguing is currently in progress we may not be able to make the full volume of these records available to researchers. Please note that all material dating from 2009 onwards is in a digital format and fully accessible.
This series of records (WAG/TRU) includes the minutes and correspondence of the Whitechapel Gallery Trustees, the minutes of the Finance subcommittee, the minutes and correspondence of the Whitechapel Art Gallery Foundation trustees and the annual reports and accounts. The Whitechapel Art Gallery is governed by a trust scheme which provides for a board of sixteen trustees. The first chair of the gallery trustees was Canon Barnett who was also the founder of the Whitechapel Art Gallery.
(WAG/GAL), 1898 – 1995 contain files on the management of the building as well as architects’ plan series for the original 1901 building, the Colquhoun-Miller rebuild of 1983 as well as the 2009 development of the former Edward Passmore Library building.
(WAG/SOC) running from 1948 – 1987 these records relate to the activities of The Whitechapel Gallery Society which was formed in Feb 1948 to support the gallery financially through private and business subscription and to serve as an opinion forming body on gallery policy. The Society became less active in the 1960s, was relaunched in 1970 and finally dissolved in 1978.