Opening times: Monday to Friday 13:00 to 17:30 (last admission 17:00).
The Witt and Conway Libraries are located at our Somerset House campus
Finding the image libraries during Courtauld Connects
Please note that the entrance to the Institute has moved. Walking under the canopy leading from the Strand, passing the old Institute entrance on your left, turn left towards the King’s College Campus. Enter the last door on your left and reception staff will direct you to down to the Witt and Conway Libraries.
The heart of the Conway Library is the private collection of Lord Conway of Allington, which came to The Courtauld Institute of Art in 1932. Since then, the Library has been developed continuously as a teaching and research collection. It now contains over one million images: photographs and cuttings of world architecture, architectural drawings and publications, sculpture, ivories, seals, metalwork, manuscript illumination, stained glass, wall paintings, panel paintings and textiles.
Since it came to The Courtauld over 80 years ago, the Conway Library has been built up by various means. Its stock of original photographs has been increased by donation and by buying negatives, and the Library has also commissioned photography in Britain and abroad. A large number of the photographs are the work of graduate students from The Courtauld Institute of Art, whose informed insights make the Library an especially valuable research tool.
The Conway collection also includes two smaller collections. The archive of 22,000 glass plates known as the De Laszlo Collection of Paul Laib Negatives includes images of works by many of the major artists working in Britain between 1900 and 1945. The archive of renowned architectural photographer Anthony Kersting (1916-2008) consists of over 160,000 images documenting the architecture of almost every European country, Asia, New Zealand, the Middle and Far East.
Separate from the main Library sequence and accessible by arrangement are the Conway’s holdings of historic photographs (mostly of architecture) and the late Edward B. Garrison’s collection of photographs of pre-1300 Italian painting.
Currently, images are mounted on card and housed in boxes on open shelves – although some elements of the Conway collection are available online as low resolution images. However, an innovative volunteer programme – part funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and managed by The Courtauld’s Digital Media department, is now underway to make the entire Conway collection available online as high resolution images.
Not only will this mean that a wider range of people can access the images within the Library – some of which have never been seen by the public before – but it will also make the Library easier to search and use as a research and educational resource. Currently, the Conway is arranged by the location of the structure photographed, and by chronology. Works by key photographers are scattered throughout the collection with no means of easy access. The digitisation project will address this, making previously “hidden gems” such as some of T.E. Lawrence’s travel photography easy to view and enjoy for the first time.
Over 800 volunteers have been involved in the digitisation project to date, learning new skills and receiving training in areas such as cataloguing and photography. Volunteers are welcomed from all walks of life, and The Courtauld has worked in partnership with a range of organisations such as BeyondAutism, the Terrence Higgins Trust and My Action for Kids to ensure that volunteering can be an experience enjoyed by all.
An insight into the Conway Library digitisation project can be found on the project’s blog. Or if you’d like to sign up to be a volunteer, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit https://courtauld.ac.uk/study/resources/image-libraries/volunteering for more information,
At the same time, the Witt Library is also undergoing an ambitious programme of digitisation – find out more about this programme.
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