Courtauld Considers Drastic Cuts to Archives

The Courtauld Institute in London is considering drastic cuts to its three archives of images, including the Witt Library, according to the Art Newspaper. From September, they would only open one day a week and effectively cease to collect. This proposal is causing great concern among art historians, as well as the art trade, since it is a major resource.

Cost-cutting lies behind the proposal, and the Courtauld is concerned about the subsidy involved in administering and adding to the collections (Witt Library, Conway Library, and Photographic Survey).

More than three million images are kept in London’s Somerset House and are currently open to the public every weekday, for a modest sixteen dollars a year or three dollars a day. Although the Internet means that much of the recently added material is now available online, Web images cannot be searched in such a systematic way.

Courtauld staff who run the three collections are now under threat of redundancy. The plan is that the libraries would open only one day a week (with volunteer assistance), and further images would not be systematically added. An internal consultation with the librarians is underway and is due to be concluded in August.