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Royal Architectural Museum Records

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 1968 Museum Records
Held at: Architectural Association - click here to see details of the physical location of collection
Full title: Royal Architectural Museum Records
Date(s): 1850-1921
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 0.13 cubic metres (3 boxes, 1 volume of photographs)
Name of creator(s): Royal Architectural Museum

Context

Administrative/Biographical history:

The Royal Architectural Museum (RAM) was established in 1851, under the name of the Architectural Museum, by a group of architectural professionals led by George Gilbert Scott (1811-1878). Its founding members included such notable figures as Sir Charles Barry (1795-1860) and George Godwin (1813-1888), with Thomas Philip de Grey, 2nd Earl de Grey (1781-1859) as President and Alexander J. B. Beresford-Hope (1820-1870) as a trustee. The museum was formed for the purpose of improving the education of architectural art-workers and was considered by its founders as constituting the nucleus of a national museum of architecture. Its collections were made up primarily of plaster casts of European gothic architectural ornament, together with original examples of decorative ironwork, tiles, woodcarving, sculptural stonework, stained glass and architectural models, plans and drawings. The museum's first home was in Canon Row, Westminster, London where, from 1852 until 1854, it incorporated a School for Art-workmen.

Under the patronage of Prince Albert (1819-1861) and with the backing of John Ruskin (1819-1900), the museum expanded rapidly and in 1857 moved to the new South Kensington Museum (now Victoria and Albert Museum), where it retained its independent status and name. Following disputes with the South Kensington Museum authorities, the Architectural Museum purchased the lease on numbers 18-20, Bowling Street, Westminster, London (re-named Tufton Street in 1870), where it erected a museum building designed by members Ewan Christian (1814-1895) and Joseph Clarke ([c. 1819]-1888). On the museum's re-opening in July 1869, patronage was renewed by Queen Victoria (1819-1901) and permission granted for the title 'Royal' to be appended to the museum name. The collections continued to grow rapidly and at the publication of a catalogue in 1876 holdings totalled in excess of 6000 items. On Scott's death in 1878, leadership of the Museum passed to the architect, John P. Seddon (1827-1906), who worked to establish closer links with contemporary firms of art workers. In 1870 a School of Architectural Art was opened within the Museum, administered jointly by the RAM, the Architectural Association (AA) and the Royal Institute of British Architects. By 1873 the RAM was the sole administrator of the school and by 1875 had managed to obtain Government funding - the name of the school being changed to the Westminster School of Art (WSA) by 1888. The RAM and WSA were subsequently jointly registered as an incorporated company on 27 December 1893. In 1904 the RAM was wound up and its premises and collections passed to the AA, who continued to operate the Museum's administrative, legal and curatorial functions under the RAM name. The AA's architecture school co-existed within the Museum buildings until 1915 when it was decided that conditions were too cramped. The premises were then sold to the National Lending Library for the Blind and the collections dispersed, primarily to the Victoria and Albert Museum, where a portion remain on display in the cast courts.

Content

Scope and content/abstract:

Consists of records of the administrative, legal, curatorial and educational functions of the Royal Architectural Museum (RAM). Includes minute books of the Museum's committees and sub-committees, 1851-1904, and subscription lists, 1889-1902. Also comprises of legal documentation regarding the Museum's incorporation, 1888-1893; correspondence relating to royal patronage, 1869-1901; correspondence and documentation relating to the winding up of the RAM and the vesting of its property in the Architectural Association (AA), 1901-1903; correspondence, legal opinions and documentation regarding the sale of the RAM building to the National Lending Library for the Blind, 1915-1916, and property leases, agreements and insurance for the RAM premises and collections, 1869-1913. Curatorial records are also held, including correspondence relating to acquisitions, 1914; published textual and photographic material, including a catalogue and descriptive guides promoting the Museum's collections, 1855-1884; correspondence and listings dealing with the dispersal of the RAM collections to the Victoria and Albert Museum and Exeter Cathedral, 1915-1921. The educational function of the RAM is also recorded in the minutes of the Westminster School of Art (WSA) committee, 1875-1901, together with printed material, including prospectuses, [c.1851]-1852, advertising and promoting the associated School for Art Workmen. In addition, correspondence relating to the WSA's relationship with the Department of Science and Art is held, 1888-1889.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:
English

System of arrangement:

As the original order of the records has been largely lost and the administrative structure of the Royal Architectural Museum is unclear, the records have been arranged according to the institution's functions. Arrangement is therefore into ten series, reflecting the administrative function, legal function, curatorial function and educational function of the Royal Architectural Museum.

Conditions governing access:

Unrestricted access for AA students and members. For all other categories of users the purchase of an Archive Readers' Pass is required.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Photocopying or scanning of material is forbidden; photography is permitted at the discretion of the Archivist.

Finding aids:

A catalogue, to file level, is available within the Architectural Association Archives repository.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

The records of the Royal Architectural Museum were transferred to the Architectural Association (AA) in 1904, when the AA took over the operation of the Museum and the ownership of its collections and premises. The records were rediscovered in 1980 in the AA Library's storage area at 13 Morwell Street, London.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Further papers relating to the transfer of items from the Royal Architectural Museum collections to the Victoria and Albert Museum are held within the Victoria and Albert Archives; Architectural Association Nominal File. A small quantity of papers relating to the Museum's incorporation and a bequest to the Museum are held at The National Archives; BT 31/5751/40267, IR 62/669.

Publication note:

Published articles making use of the records comprise of; Bottoms, E., 'The Royal Architectural Museum in the Light of New Documentary Evidence', Journal of the History of Collections, 19 (2007), 1, pp. 115-139; Flour, I., 'On the Formation of a National Museum of Architecture: Architectural Museum versus South Kensington Museum', Architectural History, 51 (2008), pp. 211-238.

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Description prepared by Edward Bottoms. Works consulted: Bottoms, E., 'The Royal Architectural Museum in the Light of New Documentary Evidence', Journal of the History of Collections, 19 (2007), 1, pp. 115-139; Flour, I., 'On the Formation of a National Museum of Architecture: Architectural Museum versus South Kensington Museum', Architectural History, 51 (2008), pp. 211-238; Hanson, B., Architects and the 'Building World', from Chambers to Ruskin. Constructing Authority, (Cambridge, 2003); Scott, G. G., Personal and Professional Recollections by George Gilbert Scott, A Facsimile of the Original Edition with New Material and a Critical Introduction by Gavin Stamp, (Stanford, 1995); Summerson, J., The Architectural Association 1847-1947, Pleiades Books, 1947.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
February 2010

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