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The RIBA Collections

We care for one of the largest and most diverse architectural collections in the world, known as the British Architectural Library. Over four million items together represent a unique body of knowledge that is rich and global in scope. Open and free to everyone, the RIBA Collections can be consulted through two main sites.

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Search and locate catalogued material across our collections through the online catalogue.

Our collections

Composition of Inigo Jones buildings

Drawings

The RIBA Drawings Collection includes almost one million architectural drawings, from sketches and preliminary designs to presentation and technical drawings.

The collection is particularly strong in British architecture, with all significant architects from the Renaissance to the present day represented in some form. Major groups include the work of Inigo Jones, Sir Christopher Wren, and several generations of the Wyatt, Pugin, Scott, and Waterhouse families. More recent collections include the surviving drawings of Edwin Lutyens, Ernö Goldfinger, and Denys Lasdun.

The Drawings Collections can be accessed through the RIBA Architecture Study Room at the V&A, with some material stored offsite. Please book an appointment to see material from this collection. 

The Livre under construction

Photographs

The Robert Elwall Photographs Collection comprises around 1.5 million images from the earliest days of photography to the present day.

The collection includes the photographic archives of individual architects or practices, travel and topographic images from across the world, press photographs from major architectural journals, and large bodies of work by some of the best known architectural photographers of the 20th century. All types of photographic media are covered, including prints, negatives, slides, transparencies, photographically illustrated books and digital files.

The photographs collection can be accessed through the RIBA Library Reading Room at 66 Portland Place. Please book an appointment to see material from this collection. 

Set of brass drawing instruments

Objects and Artefacts

We hold a wide range of objects and artefacts documenting the evolution of the architectural profession over the past four centuries.

This collection includes drawing tables, stools, plan chests and measuring instruments, offering insight into the changing environment of the architecture office. Smaller items include coins, architecture themed toys, and the RIBA silver collection. We also care for 120 portraits depicting former RIBA presidents, and have been collecting architectural medals since our foundation.

Objects and artefacts can be accessed via the RIBA Architecture Study Room at the V&A, with some material stored offsite. Please book an appointment to see material from this collection. 

Menu card for dinner in honour of Professor Walter Gropius

Archives and Manuscripts

Our archives and manuscripts collection includes the personal correspondence, journals, notebooks, administrative files, and unpublished texts of world-famous British architects.

It also features material related to individuals and societies who have helped shape architectural culture globally, including journalists, writers, historians, and educators. This collection also covers the RIBA institutional archive, which documents our history from the earliest founding documents to recent publications and ephemera.

Archive material can be accessed via the RIBA Architecture Study Room at the V&A, with some material stored offsite. Please book an appointment to see material from this collection. 

Title page of John Shute, The First and chief groundes  of architecture

Rare books

Our Rare Books are among the world's finest collections of early and rare architectural publications.

Centered around almost 5,000 volumes published between 1478 and and 1840, this collection includes many early and rare editions (often richly illustrated) of seminal works on architecture published in Great Britain, Europe and the United States. Alongside early editions of Vitruvius, Alberti, Palladio, and Piranesi, you will find manuals and pattern books, large scale volumes on archaeology, and detailed studies of some of the most famous buildings in the world.

Rare Books are available to consult at the RIBA Library Reading Room at 66 Portland Place. You don't need an appointment.

Model of Delf Hill Middle School, Bradford

Architectural models

We care for almost 400 architectural models, representing five centuries of architectural history.

Most models in the collection were created by architects or their collaborators as a key part of their design process. A highlight is a wooden model from the 1690s of Easton Neston, a country house designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor, which is one of the earliest English architectural models still in existence. Later collections include models of some of the best-known buildings of the twentieth century, from private dwellings to large scale urban developments.

The models can be accessed through the RIBA Architecture Study Rooms at the V&A, with some material stored offsite. Please book an appointment to see material from this collection.

Photograph of books in the reading room

Books and Periodicals

Our Library Reading Room at 66 Portland Place holds books and journals related to every aspect of architectural practice and research.

With over 150,000 books in the collection, and 100 new titles added every month, it is one of the leading resources in the country for the study of architecture and architectural history. The collection covers a wide range of subjects, including all building types, architectural monographs, history and theory, town planning, sustainability, and architectural law and practice. We also provide access to around 2,240 periodical titles (600 of which are current). Since the 1930s we have been compiling an index to these journals. This catalogue, known as the Architectural Publications Index (API), is an invaluable resource for scholars and others interested in architecture and related subjects.

The RIBA Library Reading Room is free and open to all. You don't need an appointment to consult books. 

 

RIBA Institutional Archive

Our institutional archive documents the history of RIBA from its earliest foundational documents to recent publications and ephemera.

This is by far the largest grouping in our archives and manuscripts collection, and dates back to the founding of the Institute in 1834. Covering all aspects of RIBA’s work, from exams to exhibitions, this is an indispensable resource for the study of the architectural profession and architectural education worldwide. The Nomination Papers (application forms for membership) in particular are a unique source of biographical information on thousands of past members of the Institute.

Archive material can be accessed through the RIBA Architecture Study Rooms at the V&A, with some material stored offsite. Please book an appointment to see material from this collection.

Contact us

Public information line, open Monday to Friday, 10am to 1pm and 2pm to 5pm

Members information line, open Monday to Friday, 10am to 1pm and 2pm to 5pm +44 (0)20 7307 3600

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