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Royal College of Art Special Collections

The Royal College of Art holds over 30 separate special collections of distinctive, rare and unique material, including archives, photographic collections, artworks and rare books. Most collections have a direct connection to the activities and history of the College, including the work of notable students, alumni and members of staff. All collections are open to anyone wishing to use the material for research. Access is by appointment, although basic enquiries can often be answered remotely and electronic documents supplied (subject to the restrictions of copyright and data protection). Please email [email protected] with any enquiries or to make an appointment.

The following descriptions are a general guide and more detailed information can be provided on request. An active digitisation programme is gradually making parts of the collections available online, although only a small percentage of materials has been digitised to date and not all collections described below are fully catalogued. Follow the links for more detailed descriptions of each resource.

Our Special Collections fall into four main categories:

Royal College of Art Archive and Related Collections

The Royal College of Art archive includes papers, publications and photographs relating to the history and operations of the RCA, 1890s-present. Other RCA-related papers include material acquired from Peter Byrom, Clifford Hatts, Nick Holland, Angela Macfarlane and Gerald Nason, and the photographic collections of Kenneth Agnew and Margery Dennis Hall.

Click here to read more about the Royal College of Art Archive and Related Collections.

Other Archives & Manuscripts (usually relating to figures from the RCA’s history but additionally representing their activities outside the College):

  • L Bruce Archer archive
  • Maxwell Armfield papers
  • Art & Architecture archive
  • Edward Bawden sketchbook
  • Elisabeth Clements and J D McCord papers
  • Henry Cole travel journal
  • Villiers David Foundation papers
  • Madge Garland papers
  • GPO stamp albums
  • History of tapestry collection
  • W R Lethaby manuscript
  • Palfrey collection of Frank Short papers
  • Sybil Pye notebooks
  • Textiles pattern books
  • Carel Weight letters
  • Henry Wilson archive
Click here to read more about Other Archives & Manuscripts.

Fine Art Collections

  • College collection (paintings, prints and drawings by students and staff; c. 1,300 works
  • Gillian Patterson’s Box of Lions (gift box of artworks produced by Painting students and staff for tutor Gillian Patterson on her retirement in 1988)
  • Printmaking archive (prints produced by students, staff and visiting lecturers from the Printmaking programme; predominantly 1950s–present; upwards of 10,000 prints)
Click here to read more about Fine Art Collections.

Special Collections Books

  • Artists’ books (over 600 books intended as self-contained works of art, including international artists’ books and those made by RCA staff and students)
  • Colour Reference Library (over 1,600 books and other materials on the subject of colour, spanning six centuries)
  • Lion & Unicorn Press books (a complete set of the 40 publications of the College’s private press, 1952–84)
  • John Minton books (61 books and magazines containing illustrations and cover designs by John Minton, Painting tutor 1949–56)
  • Other Special Collections books (c. 700 rare or fragile books)
  • Silvie Turner papermaking collection (83 books, pamphlets and samples relating to the international history of papermaking)

Click here to read more about Special Collections Books.


+44 (0)20 7590 4234

[email protected]

Please note, access to the collections is by appointment only.