The collections of the Royal College of Music form one of the most wide-ranging and substantial research resource relating to the history of music held by a UK conservatoire, and are of international significance.
The musical instrument collection includes about 800 objects spanning from the 15th to the 20th century, and among them the earliest surviving stringed keyboard instrument, the earliest guitar in the world and instruments by Tielke, Trasuntino and Celestini among many others.
The iconographic collection includes images of musicians, instruments and music in performance. There are about 130 paintings, 104 sculptures, c 4000 prints and nearly 20,000 photographs. Some images are of enormous historical interest, such as the portrait ofJoseph Haydn painted by Thomas Hardy in 1791. Others are tantalising sketches for paintings later destroyed (a 1905 portrait of Elgar by Talbot Hughes or the bust of Christoph Willibald Gluck by Jean Anotoine Houdon) or striking portraits of less familiar musicians, such as that of the composer John Wall Callcott by his brother Augustus Wall Callcott.
The archive of 10,000 prints and photographs constitute the most substantial holding of images of musicians in the UK. If you do not see what you are looking for online, please contact us using the Assisted Picture Research form.