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Archives full of photographs of artworks from their collections and beyond, including sensitive documents relating to government committees and export applications have been saved from being thrown out. Brian Allen, director of the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, a UK educational charity with links to Yale University, immediately dispatched a van to salvage the hundreds of boxes when he received a call out of the blue from a "low-ranking" Tate employee informing him they were destined for the skip.

Some photographs were of otherwise unrecorded works, and were the only image in existence. Others were shots of important pictures taken by different cameras, in different lights and from different angles over many years, often showing dramatic changes. Although the archives' disposal occurred within the past five years, the news has only now emerged, as reported in a Guardian article here today.

Photo: Skip material quality?  Images of two John Hoppner works. Photograph: Graeme Robertson for the Guardian.

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Comment by JUNE FAIRBROTHER on February 28, 2012 at 12:51

This happened where I work about 15 years ago.  Several decades of pre-1950s glass plates were dumped by a very senior member of staff.  It's an appalling lack of responsibility shown by people who are supposed to be guardians/custodians of their collections.

Comment by Michael Pritchard on February 25, 2012 at 7:59

The Telegraph today carries a denial from the Tate:

Comment by James Morley on February 24, 2012 at 21:58

Not the first time good photos have been found in a skip - - though this does take it to another level.

If it keeps on happening it might give the BBC a sequel to Cash In The Attic though ...

Comment by Nicholas Brewer on February 24, 2012 at 21:04

Thanks Michael.

Comment by Nigel Cheffers-Heard on February 24, 2012 at 17:18

Sadly, Philistinism is alive and well at all levels, and amazingly even in the museum world. Not the first time I've come across this view, won't be the last. 

Comment by Robert Alexander Albright on February 24, 2012 at 12:02

There is still an element in the British art scene which regards photography as a mechanic's trade. The Tate wouldn't have thrown out old paintings like this.

Comment by Michael Wong on February 24, 2012 at 8:50

Already on to that!

That's where you'll find me these days .... :)

As well as the BoE, in case they accidentally throw some cash out too!

Comment by Tony Rackstraw on February 24, 2012 at 8:14

In future it might be an idea to keep an eye on skips in the vicinity of the Tate.

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