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Department of Prints and Drawings

Contact details

Phone: +44 (0)20 7323 8408

Department of Prints and Drawings
The British Museum
Great Russell Street
London
WC1B 3DG

The Department of Prints and Drawings holds one of the world's greatest works on paper collections.

It consists of about 50,000 drawings and more than two million prints. Together, they chart the development of the graphic arts in Europe from the 1400s to the present day, and their spread to the Americas and Australia.

The collection includes outstanding holdings by the greatest graphic artists, such as Dürer, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Hogarth, Goya, Kollwitz and Picasso. And there are major collections of historical, satirical and topographical prints, trade and visiting cards, fans and playing cards.

Accessing the collection

Object identification

Staff

  • Hugo Chapman – Simon Sainsbury Keeper of Prints and Drawings, Curator of British prints
  • Catherine Daunt – Hamish Parker Curator of Modern and Contemporary Graphic Art
  • Billie Duch Giménez – Exhibition Project Curator  
  • Olenka Horbatsch – Assistant Keeper: Dutch, Flemish and German Prints and Drawings before 1800
  • Francesca Kaes – Monument Trust Curator of British Drawings before 1880
  • Grant Lewis –  Melein Cosman Project Curator: Michelangelo: the last decades
  • Jennifer Ramkalawon – Assistant Keeper, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Nordic Graphic Art
  • Isabel Seligman  – Monument Trust Curator of Modern and Contemporary Drawing
  • Sarah Vowles – Assistant Keeper, Smirnov Family Curator of Italian and French Prints and Drawings before 1880
  • Charlotte Wytema – IMAF Project Curator: Netherlandish Drawings
  • The work of the department is supported by a team of Collections Managers and administrative staff.

You can search for publications by specific staff members on the British Museum Research Repository

Research

Research at the Museum drives the care, display and understanding of the collection. Our research creates new knowledge, often through collaboration and by using cutting edge technology. Research projects, studentships and other activities cover a wide variety of academic disciplines and can involve archaeological excavation, studies of museum collections, working with craftspeople, understanding our visitors, conservation and scientific investigations.

The staff of the Department of Prints and Drawings conduct extensive research as part of their work in cataloguing, preparing exhibitions and making new acquisitions.

Following a 30-year project that finished in April 2021, the prints and drawings collection is fully catalogued and digitised. Available on Collection online, each object is catalogued with summary information available to assist external scholars, students and the public with their studies.

Staff share the outcomes of their research in popular books, academic monographs, journal articles, blogs, videos and lecture programmes both inside and outside of the Museum.  

Training

The Department of Prints and Drawings offers practical training to two people each year through the Michael Bromberg Fellowship. This training aims to deepen knowledge of printmaking techniques and print history over the course of three months. Participants will also gain some experience of curatorial duties, and carry out an individual project of scholarly interest, supervised by a member of department staff. By the end of the course, participants should be able to carry out meaningful research in the field.

Find out more about the Michael Bromberg Fellowship

History of the collection

The British Museum's collection of Western prints and drawings can be traced back to Sir Hans Sloane, whose wide-ranging holdings included an album of drawings by the German Renaissance master, Albrecht Dürer.

Until the 1830s, the graphic collection expanded largely through bequests (such as the Rembrandt prints left by Clayton Mordaunt Cracherode in 1799), or through gifts – the earliest was from British watercolourist Francis Towne in 1816.

In 1835, the Museum bought John Sheepshanks' collection of Dutch and Flemish prints and drawings. This marked the start of our ambition to collect graphic holdings charting the development and spread of the graphic arts from the 1400s to the present.

The department continues to add contemporary and historic works on paper through gift, bequest and purchase. It is committed to researching and cataloguing and sharing the collection.