The Courtauld Institute's three major image archives are set to reduce their public access as a cost-cutting measure. The Witt Library, Conway Library and Photographic Survey will cut opening to one day a week from September and it is feared they may cease to collect systematically.
For £10 per annum or £2 a day, the public may access the collections which total more than 3 million images. While many of the more recent images added to the collections are available online, critics argue that online images cannot be systematically searched in the same way as the physical archives, which will become harder to access.
The Witt Library consists of over two million photographs of paintings covering the period 1200AD to the present. More than 70000 artists are represented. The collection was begun by Sir Robert Witt and bequeathed to the Courtauld in 1952. The Conway Library was given to the Courtauld in 1932 and covers sculpture, architecture and decorative arts. It comprises roughly one million photographs. The Photographic Survey records sculpture, paintings and works of art on paper in historic private collections in the British Isles. It was started in the early 1950s, in association with New York's Frick Art Reference Library, and now covers nearly 600 collections.
The proposal is causing concern for art historians, conservators and those in the art trade who fear the archives themselves may be under threat of closure.
Source, The Art Newspaper