A message concerning recent proposals by the Wallace Collection

As an association dedicated to developing research into and interest in the history of objects, collecting and collections, we are profoundly disturbed by the suggestion that one of the key tools used by students, researchers and the general public is now under threat. Over the years, the Wallace Collection Library and Archives have gained a position of fundamental importance in supporting research at many different levels, offering a unique, dedicated space where archival material and relevant publications are housed together. This ability to access such material, easily and with remarkable simplicity should not be underestimated and any attempt to divide and to move one part without the other, will be to the detriment of scholarly endeavour.

The Wallace Collection Library houses auction house sales catalogues, both historical and contemporary. In addition, the Library contains important, rare books relating to the museum’s collections as, for example, catalogues on paintings and sculpture, Sèvres porcelain, arms and armour, French eighteenth-century furniture and gold boxes, maiolica, and holdings on the history of collecting. The Howard de Walden Library of historic fencing manuals is on long term loan to the Library.

Furthermore, and most importantly, the Archive holds a number of archival collections, not available digitally, including those of the Hertford and Wallace family of art collectors (papers, c. 1790-20th century); Geoffrey de Bellaigue, former Surveyor of the Queen’ s Works of Art; Sir Francis Watson, former director of the Wallace Collection; the papers belonging to Samuel Rush Meyrick, arms and armour collector and scholar; papers of Alfred-Émilien, comte de Nieuwerkerke, surintendant des beaux-arts under Napoleon III; the papers of arms and armour specialist Claude Blair; the archive of Hans Ottomeyer, authority on French gilt bronze and furniture, and papers from dealers such as Herbert Bier. These were donated or acquired, often through private and public funds in order to benefit future scholars.

While there is always a need to find funding, and we are aware of the challenges the museum faces today, this would be a short-term solution, with huge implications for the future. The plans to develop outreach are admirable but do they require the closing of such an important resource? The Wallace Collection has created wonderfully innovative and original programmes, taking advantage of access to the museum’s collections, which it is uniquely placed to do.

Many individual scholars on many different topics have written stating how fundamental access to the Wallace Library and archives was for their research. These are the curators and educators, whose knowledge and passion for their subject underpins any educational or outreach platform. Without them there would be no education or outreach of value; unless national museums support their work, they will not exist.

A petition is being circulated, which can be accessed at http://chng.it/zsTYqgMCXX

From the Chairman and Members of the Steering Committee
Adriana Turpin, Chairman
Susanna Avery Quash
Susan Bracken
Silvia Davoli
Martina Fusari
Caroline McCaffrey-Howarth
Isobel MacDonald
Stacey Pierson
Lisa Skogh
Tom Stammers
Marie Tavinor
Imogen Tedbury
Eleni Vassilika

3 thoughts on “A message concerning recent proposals by the Wallace Collection

  1. Thank you for a clear account of the enormous importance of the Wallace Library which also points out the impossibility of digitalisation ever being able to provide the resources presently available.

  2. Very disturbing and in the wake of Royal Society of Physicians planning a similar exercise. Selling the family silver is always the easy ‘solution’. Once WC recently reneged on its founder’s stipulation that no object may be lent, it was always going to be downhill from there. Many from our group – London Historians – have signed the petition. We must be vigilant.

  3. I have used the Library and Archives at the Wallace Collection, I found the staff incredibly helpful.. I found information that I would never have found any where else. Even as a Librarian and Archivist it was pure chance that I discovered important papers that were of use to me, researching a 19 Century collector.
    It would be a very short sighted decision to close the Library and Archives. I am concerned about the material on loan to the Library. The previous owners would not have thought that there material would be caste out, where?. Also where is the collection in the Library to go, will it still be available for researchers. This should not be happening, the material would of been put in the Library for Researchers use. What will happen to the space that the LIbrary and Archives use, a small space that costs nothing.The salaries of the staff must be small in comparison to that of the various curators, who must need the Library as well..

    Trixie Brabner, Archivist.

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