Alexandra Palace has long been proud of its legacy as a cultural landmark, however our ability to understand and research that history has been transformed by the chance discovery of a lost treasure trove of hidden materials as part of the East Wing restoration project.
During enabling works in 2016, former stationery cupboards were uncovered and inside we found thousands of documents, photographs and items telling the story of the site. Many were thought lost in the 1980 fire. From architects drawings by John Johnson for the building in 1874, to the original Alexandra Park seal, photographs from the First World War, annotated sketches for the first BBC television producer Cecil Madden, and over 5,000 photographic records documenting the history of the site and the community.
Since this amazing discovery, more records have been found and compiled, and generous donors have come forward with important materials returned to the Palace to build an authoritative resource.
It is a huge undertaking to now process this archive and whilst we catalogue and conserve the materials we can provide only limited physical access onsite.
In the interim and as a result of a fruitful partnership with Google Arts & Culture, we digitised a large percentage of the archive, along with our online exhibitions.
The archive contains the records of the organisations responsible for the site, including the Alexandra Park and Palace Charitable Trust, the Alexandra Palace Trading Company and the Alexandra Palace Development Team, who coordinated the 1980s restoration. Materials include original architectural plans, administrative documents, board minutes, photographs, and marketing materials.
This collection comprises ephemera relating to Alexandra Palace: postcards, posters, prints, tickets and a small collection of objects. Highlights include tickets for the opening season in 1875 and early 3D stereoscope slides. Our poster collection includes a recently acquired psychedelic poster for the 14 Hour Technicolor Dream in 1967, and continues to grow as we collect modern gig posters.
Lovingly curated by the society archivist Simon Vaughan, this collection has been created by former BBC television staff members who worked at the Alexandra Palace studios. Their compiled personal papers offer fascinating insights on an internationally significant subject. Unique annotated documents, distinct from archives held by the BBC and elsewhere, these papers include working notes, scrapbooks, memos and drawings by: the first television producer Cecil Madden; director D.H Munro; lighting designer D.R. Campbell; master carpenter Tom Edwards; and post-war designer Richard Greenough.
Nancy McMillan was star of the Alexandra Palace Operatic and Dramatic Society through the 1920s and early 1930s. Her family have kindly donated her papers, which include photographs, programmes, press cuttings, and even good luck notecards from flowers on opening night. With very little surviving material evidence relating to the Theatre in use, we are very fortunate to house this evocative collection.
Carl Holzer was an Austrian citizen living in London who was interned at Alexandra Palace throughout the First World War. An accomplished artist, he drew and painted fellow internees and documented life in the camp. Many of his fifteen portraits in oil are painted on recycled materials. One of them records a food shopping list on the reverse. Holzer’s paintings and postcards were kindly donated to the AP Archive by his family.
Alexandra Palace holds the largest collection of historic assets from the Park and Palace, and is the official repository for related materials. Other archival sources, including our historic & Victorian programme collection, can be accessed at: Bruce Castle Museum; also at Hornsey Historical Society; the National Archives; and V&A Department of Theatre and Performance.
We are thrilled to have discovered so many invaluable materials, however we are aware there are large gaps in our collection. If you have any items you feel would help expand our collection, please get in touch below.
Alexandra Palace is a charity, run for the benefit of everyone. Our Park, Palace and spectacular events have been enriching lives since 1863, but the coronavirus pandemic has hit us hard. To be blunt, we are looking at a £1m shortfall this year and the same again next year. We know this time has been hard on many people but, if you can afford it, your support will help us get through this crisis.