Tate Archive

An abundance of British art history

Tate Archive collects and makes accessible a wealth of material primarily relating to the history of British art. With more than 1,000 archive collections and over 1 million items, it is one of the largest art repositories in the world. Located at Tate Britain, these collections – housed and accessible in the Hyman Kreitman Reading Rooms at Tate Britain – comprise materials such as letters, diaries, sketches, photographs, posters, financial records, exhibition histories, audio visual and born-digital material. All of this material relates to artists, art practice, and art world figures and organisations active in the UK.

As Tate Archive’s coverage encompasses the whole of the UK, there are a number of collections relating to Liverpool, with one particular collection relating to an artist who also had Ukrainian heritage: Bernard Meninsky. It’s possible to view digitised items from this collection as well as some of his marvellous sketches (he was a noted draughtsman).
Another artist with links to Liverpool is Yoko Ono, who met a certain John Lennon at the opening of her ‘Unfinished Paintings’ exhibition at Indica Gallery, London, in November 1966.

In 2004, Yoko Ono created a work called, ‘My Mummy was Beautiful’ which was shown as an installation at Tate Liverpool during the Liverpool Biennale, 18 September – 28 November 2004. This work encouraged sons and daughters to praise their mothers in the installation at Tate Liverpool, with banners and other artworks placed throughout the city. Images celebrating motherhood appeared in numerous locations and contexts throughout the city, on banners, bags, stickers, postcards, flyers, posters and badges. The framed instruction score and twelve files of responses by participants was presented, by the artist, in 2007.

Photograph of Bernard Meninsky painting outdoors

Image credit: Tate Archive (catalogue reference: TGA 8225/5/1/3)

Building a ‘Tate in the North’

The idea for a new gallery gained momentum with the arrival of Alan Bowness as Director of Tate in 1980. With the support of Trustees for a ‘Tate in the North’, Bowness set about finding a suitable site. The last site that Bowness visited was a disused warehouse in Albert Dock, which captured his imagination. After a discussion with Michael Heseltine (then Secretary of State for the Environment), it was agreed that the Tate project would be included in Heseltine’s 14 point Merseyside regeneration package. A structural survey was undertaken of Block C of the Albert Dock by architect, Sir James Stirling, and he visited the site with the Chairman of the Tate Trustees, Sir Jeremy Hutchinson. After funding had been agreed, Government approval was announced in 1985 for the conversion of the building, overseen by James Stirling. Tate Liverpool opened in May 1988. Its purpose was to increase access to the national collection of modern art and, in its first two years of operation, Tate Liverpool attracted over 1.4 million visits.

We have several items in our archives about this project, including:

Hyman Kreitman Reading Rooms, Tate Britain

All are welcome to use our online catalogue, and browse a range of digitally available items on our website. To consult material, in person, readers just need to book an appointment to visit the Reading Rooms at Tate Britain. All collections – including our internationally renowned Library – are free to use and open to everyone. Tate Library is a centre of excellence for art historical research, its holdings include half a million publications on British art since 1500, and international art since 1900: books, journals, ephemera, and electronic resources about art and artists; exhibition catalogues from the late 19th century to recent contemporary shows; artists’ books, photobooks, and zines from the 1960s to the present day. You can use the library catalogue to search the collection and discover an extensive range of publications related to Liverpool, Ukraine… and music too!

Browse the Tate Britain catalogue