What are collections?
Collections are groups of items that have something in common. They might have been created by the same person or at the same time, or be connected by a theme or a subject. Some collections contain expensive, old or rare items. But collections can be of anything, from everyday packaging to digital files.
Collections are held by institutions like museums and archives whose staff and volunteers catalogue and research them. People also create their own collections by gathering material they have a passion for, or keeping things they create themselves. Most of us collect things without realising it: our photos, clothes, notes and drawings are all types of collection.
Collections are important because they create a record of the past and the present from different perspectives. They can be sources of knowledge, pride, inspiration, debate and resistance.
Our work with collections
We use collections to create exhibitions about the history of illustration and its place in our world. We borrow material from museums and archives and we research, conserve, catalogue and display illustration from personal collections.
We collaborate with collections from across the UK and overseas. We have a small handling collection, but we don’t otherwise have a collection of our own. We work closely with illustrator Quentin Blake to share , which is pledged to us.
Explore collections online
Collections Online is a project we launched in December 2023 to make historic illustration available to people doing research and looking for inspiration. We will be adding more material on an ongoing basis so that Collections Online grows into a rich resource over time.
The material featured is from personal collections, archives and museums. We are so grateful to the owners of collections and copyright holders who have allowed us to share their material.
Collections Online has been made possible with generous support from the John Ellerman Foundation.
Photographs of works by Jacqueline Ayer and Jo Brocklehurst are by Justin Piperger.