Press Release

Tate Archive brings history to life online

For the first time in its history, Tate is making a selection of unique archive material accessible to everyone with the launch today of the Tate Archive collection exclusively at Tate Online

The material, which includes rare artefacts, letters and photographs gives a fascinating and highly visual insight into three key areas – Tate’s history, the Bloomsbury Group and the art world of the 1960s and 1970s as seen through the eyes of the art critic Barbara Reise. Previously visitors could view the material only by special appointment. Now thanks to Tate Online’s sponsor BT and the New Opportunities Fund (NOF), online visitors can browse, search and study in libraries, schools and homes throughout the world.

The Tate Insight team, which was formed in 2000 to digitise the Tate Collection, has spent the last year delving into the rich holdings of the Tate Archive. The team has created three learning journeys around the themes of Bloomsbury Group; Tate History and Barbara Reise. These packages present an overview of the material available including a wide variety of photographs, documents, audio excerpts and other material. Through these presentations, Tate hopes to give visitors an insight into the Tate Archive and enable them to explore the subject matter and also discover what an archive is and understand how the Tate Archive underpins and interacts with the core Collection.

In addition, the Archive showcase enables online visitors to browse through over 4,000 objects, in any order, with the aid of transcriptions for handwritten and audio material and a magnifying tool for typed texts such as press cuttings. This material is fully searchable by subject keyword, theme or type of object and visitors are also able to combine these tools to refine search results.


The Bloomsbury Archive contains a wealth of material including one of the largest collections in the world of photographs of the artistic group. Taken mainly by Vanessa Bell, the photographs form a unique visual record of the artist’s life, family and friends. Home life, holidays, amateur dramatics, and well-known literary friends were all captured Bell’s camera. There are also photographs of the artists at work: on location and in their studios, where we can see rare glimpses of works in progress. The Archive also contains beautifully written and sometimes illustrated correspondence between Bell and her family and friends, including Duncan Grant and Roger Fry, the other key artists in the group.

Tate History

When Tate first opened in 1897 it had just ten galleries and twenty-five members of staff. Since that date it has had eight Directors, added some 59,000 works to the Collection, welcomed millions of visitors and been at the centre of various controversies about modern art as well as surviving two World Wars and a major flood. Using material from the Archive, online visitors will be able to explore Tate’s history, focusing on four main areas: buildings, people, the war years and the flood. Personal papers, letters, diaries, photographs, models and war telegrams bring this slice of history alive in a highly visual and approachable way for the first time.

Barbara Reise

Barbara Reise was an American art critic living and working in London during the 1960s and 70s who sadly took her own life at the age of 37. She was a leading participant in the history of minimal and conceptual art, a close friend of Carl Andre, Dan Graham and Sol LeWitt as well as some of their British counterparts including Gilbert and George and Richard Long. Her archive contains a rich variety of information relating to her life and work and provides a fascinating behind the scenes look into the artists and work of this period.