David Bowie Archive Acquired by V&A Museum in London

David Bowie archive
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David Bowie archive
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Photo Credit: AVRO / CC by 3.0

The V&A Museum in London has acquired a massive 8,000-piece archive of material from the David Bowie Estate containing handwritten notebooks, letters, costumes, instruments, awards, photos, set designs, and more.

The V&A Museum in London has confirmed its acquisition of a treasure trove of archive material from the estate of David Bowie. The archive contains items such as instruments, costumes, handwritten notebooks, letters, and much more, many of which were featured during the “David Bowie Is” traveling museum exhibit viewed by more than 2 million people from 2013 to 2018. 

The archive includes many “intimate writings, thought processes, and unrealized projects, the majority of which have never been seen in public before.” The items will be displayed in 2025 at The David Bowie Centre for the Study of Performing Arts in Stratford — also unveiled today.

“The archive traces Bowie’s creative processes as a musical innovator, cultural icon, and advocate for self-expression and reinvention from his early career in the 1960s to his death in 2016,” reads the announcement. “Alongside the creation of the new Centre, the gift will support the ongoing conservation, research, and study of the archive.”

The museum’s new Stratford location, the V&A East Storehouse, is set to be a “new type of experience,” storing over 250,000 objects, 350,000 books, and 1,000 archives in conservation labs, research and reading rooms, galleries, and other creative spaces throughout the building. The museum says the Stratford location was made possible with a $12 million donation from the Blavatnik Family Foundation and Warner Music Group; the donation’s purpose is to go toward the museum’s infrastructure and upkeep rather than the acquisition of the archive material.

“David Bowie was one of the greatest musicians and performers of all time,” says Dr. Tristram Hunt, director of the V&A. “The V&A is thrilled to become custodians of his incredible archive and to be able to open it up for the public. Bowie’s radical innovations across music, theatre, film, fashion, and style — from Berlin to Tokyo to London — continue to influence design and visual culture and inspire creatives from Janelle Monáe to Lady Gaga to Tilda Swinton and Raf Simons.”

“My deepest thanks go to the David Bowie Estate, Blavatnik Family Foundation, and Warner Music Group for helping make this a reality and for providing a new sourcebook for the Bowies of tomorrow,” concludes Dr. Hunt.

“With David’s life work becoming part of the UK’s national collections, he takes his rightful place amongst many other cultural icons and artistic geniuses,” says a spokesperson from the Bowie estate. “The David Bowie Centre for the Study of Performance — and the behind-the-scenes access that V&A East Storehouse offers — will mean David’s work can be shared with the public in ways that haven’t been possible before. We’re so pleased to be working closely with the V&A to continue to commemorate David’s enduring cultural influence.”

“We are very proud to support the V&A and allow for the creation of this irreplaceable archive to preserve and showcase David Bowie’s iconic career,” adds Len Blavatnik. “His influence on music and popular culture throughout the world cannot be overstated.”