Records of Public Engagement Directorate

RA Collection: Archive

Archive context

Showing item 12 of 17 in this group

Reference code



Records of Public Engagement Directorate





Extent & medium


Historical Background

For many years the Royal Academy was rather publicity averse and did little to promote its activities. At the end of the 19th century century the Academy did not produce posters and only grudingly allowed the press their own private view of exhibitions.

It was the rise of importance of the loan exhibitions that forced a change of attitude. In 1933 the Academy appointed its first press agent, W.A. Ackland at a fee of £500. This relationship did not succeed, but its failure allowed the arrival of Mrs. A. Zander, artist, gallerist and natural promoter. Zander was the first of several committed and innovative individuals hired to the staff of the Academy during the course of the 20th century. Although Zander left the Academy in 1940 she changed the Academy's relationship with the press for ever. It is with Zander that the Academy's press archive commences.

Tasks associated with publicity then devolved to the general office machinery of the Academy, until 1968 when the post of Assistant Secretary (Public Relations) was created. The first appointee in this rather ill-defined role was Hans Fletcher. On his departure in 1975 the post was taken on by his secretary Griselda Hamilton-Baillie who, with her characteristic verve and tenacity, transformed the Academy's publicity machine. During the 1980s and 1990s the department developed into two distinct teams, one for press relations and one for marketing. This remains the core structure of what is now called the Communications Department (renamed 2011).

Content Description

The department is Academy's official mouthpiece and so produces press releases on all topics relating to the Academy's programme and activities. It produces most of the promotional ephemera relating to each exhibition, in the form of leaflets, posters &c. It is also responsible for calculating the impact of marketing campaigns through the collection of press notices and the use of audience analytics of the type produced by companies such as Mori.