The National Portrait Gallery (NPG) has announced ‘The Nation’s Family Album’ initiative, which encourages people to submit images of their families for possible inclusion in a landmark exhibition online and at the NPG.

The NPG is working with genealogy website Ancestry on the project and the idea is to represent the diversity of family stories in the UK and to showcase ‘undiscovered portraits of everyday British people’, which will then be collated into a ‘representative’ online album.

The initiative is inviting people of different ages, backgrounds and cultures in the UK to delve through their suitcases, search in attics, scour photographs on their walls or flick through their physical photo albums to find and submit their favourite family images.

Submissions to ‘The Nation’s Family Album’ close on 30 June 2022 and must be uploaded digitally. Any person in the UK can submit up to a maximum of three images that relate to the following themes – Belonging; Legacy; Connection and Identity. You can find out more at Ancestry: The Nation’s Family Album info.

The National Portrait Gallery is inviting submissions to its The Nation's Family Album project, which it's collaborating on with Ancestry

The NPG is inviting submissions to The Nation’s Family Album project, in collaboration with genealogy experts Ancestry

Shortlisted selection

Later this year, a panel of experts – including a yet-to-be announced famous photographer, the NPG’s chief curator, Dr. Alison Smith, and family history expert, Simon Pearce from Ancestry – will shortlist a selection of portraits that best encapsulate the three themes of ‘The Nation’s Family Album’.

Entrants will be in with the chance of having their own family photographs and stories included in an online exhibition, as well as a display at the iconic National Portrait Gallery in London when it reopens in spring 2023, following the completion of the NPG Inspiring People project.

An NPG spokesperson told AP, ‘”The Nation’s Family Album” is set to be an important record of our collective history, as it will highlight, celebrate and capture the rich and diverse family stories across Britain, making it easier for future generations to find out more about their family history.’  

Huge portrait collection goes online

The Nation’s Family Album project was announced at the same time as another NPG collaboration with Ancestry. This has seen the NPG making nearly 500 years’ worth of British portraitsdating from 1547 to 2018 – from the its collection available for free online on the Ancestry website.

The huge collection, known as ‘The UK, Portraits and Photographs, 1547-2018’, has seen over 125,000 digitised portraits from the NPG’s Collection made available online to Ancestry users. This collection captures British history and culture in a variety of mediums, including photographs, paintings, sculptures, drawings, and prints.

Muhammad Ali by Rex Coleman, for Baron Studios, 23 May 1966. © National Portrait Gallery, London

Muhammad Ali by Rex Coleman, for Baron Studios, 23 May 1966 – one of the images from the NPG Collection that’s now available to view on Ancestry’s website. © National Portrait Gallery, London

Dr. Alison Smith, chief curator at the NPG, explained, ‘The National Portrait Gallery is home to the largest collection of portraits in the world, and while many are familiar with our most famous faces, we are proud to also hold numerous portraits of men, women and children from all walks of life. By making 125,000 portraits from the 1500s to the present day available on Ancestry, people will be able to explore the histories of those depicted in our Collection. We are delighted to be working in partnership with Ancestry to share our extensive Collection of world-class portraits with those researching their family history online, and encourage submissions to “The Nation’s Family Album” to celebrate this moment.’

Portraits of British culture & history

The NPG showcases the work of many acclaimed artists and photographers, but portraits in the Collection are selected primarily for their subject matter and the sitter’s importance to British culture and history. As well as many iconic portraits of famous figures, the NPG Collection includes images of individuals from all walks of life.

Emmeline Pankhurst by Mrs Albert Broom (Christina Livingston), 1910s. © National Portrait Gallery, London

Emmeline Pankhurst by Mrs. Albert Broom (Christina Livingston), 1910s. © National Portrait Gallery, London

Simon Pearce, family history expert at Ancestry, said, ‘The saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” is particularly relevant when researching your family history. Portraits can reveal how our family members once looked, how they lived and even certain personality traits. That’s why we’re so excited to be working with the National Portrait Gallery to provide wider access to some of its captivating and historically rich collection. Hosting these portraits online at Ancestry means more people can explore nearly 500 years of British life – and some might even discover a picture of their own family member!’

Poppy Andrews, senior communications manager at the NPG, told AP, ‘The collaboration makes it easier for those researching their family history to know whether one of their relatives features in our Collection. Ancestry users can add portraits to their family trees and bring a face to the name of their ancestors.’

How to search for your family photographs

If you want to search for historical portraits of members of your family you can do so by searching the UK, Portraits and Photographs, 1547-2018 collection via Ancestry.

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