The Institute of Historical Research Library has a range of works covering museum and heritage studies. Whilst the discipline of museum studies is not explicitly part of the Library's collecting policy, there is significant relevant material in the history of the architecture of museums, patronage, personal testimonies and parliamentary sources. In this way, the Library's collections can provide multiple sources for examining the social history of individual museums, as well as resources documenting wider debates concerning the arts. These materials are supplemented with a growing range of methodological works covering both museum studies and the heritage profession more widely.

Due to the Library's classification, works are distributed across collections. However, multiple holdings concerning the methodology of museum and heritage studies can be found in the general historiography section at classmarks E.144 and E.188. The resources highlighted in this guide can be consulted alongside the related collection guides for the History of Art and Design, Memory and Commemoration, and Architectural History.

General Works, Sources and Other Materials

Trade and Organisational Histories

The library contains several resources on the appointments of staff, acquisitions, visitor guides, and changes to the management and running of museums. 

A range of parliamentary sources are held for different countries, including Parliamentary Debates and Proceedings, Petitions and Reports and Acts of Parliament. Examples covering the subject include:

  • New museums: Bill to enable Town Councils to establish Museums of Art in Corporate Towns 1845. Bill to provide Site for National Portrait Gallery 1889. 
  • Museum attendance: Annual reports listing visitor numbers, opening times and costs for attending, e.g. South Kensington Museum 1857-8.
  • Museum access: Bill on removing museum admission charges, Museums and Galleries Admission Charges Act 1971, accessed via ProQuest UK Parliamentary Papers
  • Museum governance: Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 (Amendment) brought in 2010 - House of Commons sessional papers, accessed via Hansard on UK Parliament website.

Newspapers and Testimonies

  • The Times online (1785-2013) has a range of resources relevant for the study of the establishment of museums, openings, public opinions and exhibition details. For example, an article entitled 'The Museum in New York' (January 1884), details a trial taking place in the United States Circuit Court concerning the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The article states that, 'the people of the city have taken the deepest interest in its progress.The museum is the pet of New York's best and most refined society. The attack upon the validity of the chief ornament of the museum, the Cesnola collection, has been a shock to New York pride.'
  • Nineteenth Century British Library Newspapers provides a range of materials on museums including advertisements, news articles and opinion pieces. One example from The York Herald, (February 1857), details that the Council of the Society of Arts, 'are of the opinion that the time has give just facilities across the United Kingdom for acquiring knowledge in art and science.'
  • Breitenbach, Esther (ed.), Scottish Women: a documentary history, 1780-1914
  • Lach-Szyrma, Krystyn, From Charlotte Square to Fingal's Cave: reminiscences of a journey through Scotland 1820-1824 notes of the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow, 'Thence we proceeded to the Hunterian Museum, which belongs to the University and lies within its precincts. It is a rich collection of animals, plants, minerals, medals and manuscripts left by the famous doctor Hunter who studied at this University. The collection is valued at £120,000.'

Online Resources, Periodicals and Theses

A full list of electronic resources available within the library can be found here. Selected relevant examples for museum studies and heritage include:

Relevant theses held in the library's collections include:

Current copies of most journals are on open access in the current periodical room on the ground floor and back issues can be ordered from the onsite store. Many are also available online within the building via the links on the catalogue entry. Selected relevant examples concerning museum and heritage studies include:

Other Collections

Within the IHR Wohl Library

Material relating to museum studies and heritage practices can be found across our collections. Of particular note are the holdings within the General collections and British History collection. Researchers can also consult the library's History of Art and Design and Memory and Commemoration collections guides for further details of relevant collections and resources. 

The IHR also hosts a series of seminars relevant to the study of museums, archives, and heritage practices. These include seminars on Collecting & Display, and Public History.

Other libraries, archives, organisations

The Courtauld Institute of Art Book Library holds an extensive collection of 60,000 exhibition catalogues on a broad range of topics from museums and galleries throughout Europe, North America, Australasia, and other parts of the world. Similarly, the Wallace Collection library contains a range of materials examining museum history and the history of collecting including periodicals, exhibition catalogues, and auction sale catalogues. The Collection also runs a History of Collecting Seminar Series.

In addition, Senate House Library holds significant collections concerning museum studies. Useful subject-searches of the library's catalogue include: Museums – management ; Museum techniques ; Museum exhibits. 

Further Help

Contact us if you would like help on finding or using our collections, or if you have any comments or suggestions about the content of this guide. We are happy to help.

You can also book a tour or training session.

Case Studies

British Museum

Imperial War Museums

In March 1917, the War Cabinet approved the formation of a National War Museum and it was noted in the Museum's first annual report that, 'the main lines on which the future Institution will be constructed have been laid down, and a small nucleus staff has been engaged.' The library contains a range of material, both relating to the history of the institution and to the development of its collections. Selected examples include: