About the National Jazz Archive

Within the National Jazz Archive you can freely access the most comprehensive resource on the story of jazz in the UK.

This resource goes beyond documenting the development of this thrilling, ever-evolving, musical phenomenon.  It is also the story of art, fashion, cultural diversity and social progress. 

Our passion isn’t just for conserving and celebrating our amazing heritage. We also look to supporting and documenting the present and future of this brilliant art form in the digital era.

And, much of this rich historical material is available online and accessible from this website. Meaning you can undertake your research from wherever you're based - So explore with us today.


A cartoon illustration from Jazz Illustrated magazine in 1950 of clarinettist Pee Wee Russell by British trumpeter Humphrey LytteltonOur collection of written, printed and visual material and oral histories dates back to the 1920s. It includes many unique items and draws researchers and enthusiasts from around the world.

Visitors are always welcome to see our collections at Loughton in Essex, and at Birmingham City University. You can also start by exploring our collections online.

This page of the April 1950 issue of Jazz Illustrated, from our collection of journals, includes a caricature of clarinet player Pee Wee Russell by Humphrey Lyttelton (Humph), the British trumpeter and bandleader, who also drew the trumpeter in our original logo.


Our history

A precursor to the National Jazz Archive was The British Institute of Jazz Studies (BIJS). The BIJS was established as a charitable organisation in 1965 and was a parallel organisation to the Institute of Jazz Studies in America.

Its aim was to offer research and education facilities to students, researchers, publishers, and enthusiasts through its collection of jazz-related material. Despite producing its own periodical, Jazz Studies between 1966-71 and some discographies, a lack of funding and no permanent home resulted in a waning of The BIJS's initial enthusiasm. Following the founding of the National Jazz Archive in 1988, the BIJS was formally merged with the Archive in 2013.

You can read more about the history of the BIJS from its founder, Graham Langley, in a separate account of the UK's first Jazz Archive.


Our aims

Since the Archive was founded in 1988, its vision is to ensure that the rich cultural heritage of jazz is safeguarded for future generations of enthusiasts, professionals and researchers. It was founded with the initial aim of collecting the written and visual printed history of jazz, blues and related music, including periodicals, photographs, letters and personal collections.

Our mission is used to define what we do and help achieve this vision, and our shorter term aims and objectives.

The National Jazz Archive's Mission Statement

We are passionate about jazz and want to preserve and share its rich heritage by meeting the aims and objectives we set ourselves. This includes


Our collections

The National Jazz Archive holds many unique items. This includes a vast number of photographs, journals, books, posters, programmes and personal collections.

A detail of Duke Ellington from his 1973 British tour programme.Whether you’re a writer, student, jazz enthusiast or musician, our collections are available for all to explore.

Most of our digitised collection can be accessed on this website using the Explore section, but visiting the Archive itself will enable you to make full use of our resources. 

Read more about our exciting and unique jazz collections.

An image from the programme for Duke Ellington’s last British tour in 1973.


Our activities

We continue to conserve and maintain our growing collection, enabling online access for all, and to extend our oral history recordings to document our jazz heritage.

A poster showing jazz bassist Esperanza Spalding to publicise the 2018 Women in Jazz exhibition at London's Barbican.As well as cataloguing and making accessible new material, we run a programme of

  • Fundraising concerts by leading jazz musicians
  • Talks by expert writers, researchers and music specialists
  • Exhibitions, workshops and open days

In 2018 we organised the Women in Jazz exhibition at the Barbican, London


Our approach to diversity

A shared passion for jazz hasn't always meant a shared experience. As an archive, we have a special responsibility to collect and provide access to material that represents our diverse communities and their different experiences.

We aim to actively increase the amount of accessible material related to under-represented communities and those previously absent from the historical record.

We are continually learning how to better undertake our responsibilities. As part of our approach to improving representation within the Archive, we have defined an equality, diversity, and inclusion policy, which you can access below.

You can also read about what inclusion means to us and how are addressing it across our organisation and related activities.


Our team

If you would like to understand more about what we do, please read the personal stories of some of our hard-working volunteers.

Coordination of volunteers in our Loughton office to help preserve and digitise our jazz collections.Much of the vital work of the National Jazz Archive is done by a core team that includes a research archivist, project manager and IT specialist.  Their work is supplemented by our many volunteers.

We rely upon volunteers to carry out the work of the Archive. This includes receiving personal jazz collections, sorting and listing collections, scanning photographs, assisting in cataloguing, managing our website and social media, promoting and helping with our events.

Work that can be done remotely includes support for our social media and digital marketing.  If this is of interest, or you want to see how you can help, please contact our digital media team using our enquiry form.

Our team looks forward to welcoming you to Loughton as a visitor or prospective volunteer. 


Our Ambassadors

The National Jazz Archive is proud to have a number of Ambassadors, who work with the Archive to promote our work and events. 

They include a number of musicians and organisations, who are working with us to ensure the Archive remains relevant for the present and future of jazz - This includes working with us to promote the work of the Archive to as wide an audience as possible, and to ensure we reflect contemporary changes in the UK jazz scene.

Read about our Ambassadors online.


Our Patrons

The work and vision of the National Jazz Archive is supported by a number of eminent Patrons including musicians, politicians, broadcasters, authors and critics. You can read more about all of the Patrons here.


Our Trustees

The National Jazz Archive is on the Charity Commission Register of Charities for England and Wales and has Registered Charity Number 1195381. Its board of Trustees is legally responsible for all the activities that the organisation undertakes.

Our Trustees are drawn from a diverse range of backgrounds in heritage, archives, publishing, jazz, information technology, research, business and finance. All are unpaid volunteers who are responsible for ensuring that the Archive abides by its charitable aims and delivers its vision effectively.

You can meet the members of the board here.



Birmingham City University logo Enterprise For Good logo Essex County Council logo
Easy Fundraising logo Fundraising Regulator logo Heritage Lottery Fund logo
Jazz FM logo Jazz East Mishcon de Reya logo
Museums Association logo Heritage Images logo Visit Essex logo

Our partnerships and collaborations

The National Jazz Archive is open to collaborations with all those who share our passion for preserving and celebrating our jazz heritage.

We have worked with a diverse range of organisations including: the Open University, Essex University, Help the Aged, The Black Cultural Archives, Fashion Action Direct, The Guildhall School of Music, and The Barbican, the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, the National Youth Jazz Collective, Cheltenham Jazz Festival and Love Supreme.

We are thankful to Essex County Council for their generous financial support and for the accommodation provided to the Archive at Loughton Library.

We have also established a formal partnership with Birmingham City University (BCU), a world class centre for jazz study and research. BCU houses our satellite collection in state-of-the-art archival facilities. An important 2021 addition to this satellite has been the British Institute of Jazz Studies (BIJS) collection. Started in the 1960s, it has been the lifelong passion of Graham Langley (ex-chair of the Archive's Board of Trustees) and is immensely important in its own right (see also above in Our history).

You can read more about the on-going partnership with Birmingham City University and about the BCU Centre for Jazz Studies.

We welcome contact from any organisation, or individual, who wishes to collaborate with the National Jazz Archive. If you would like to explore how we can work together, please contact our Chair of Trustees in the first instance.


Our policies

The National Jazz Archive has a number of policies, which define the principles under which the Archive operates.  All of these policies are reviewed regularly, and any changes agreed by the board of Trustees.

These policies can be accessed below along with our volunteer handbook.


Collections Policy Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Policy Environmental & Sustainability Policy
Privacy Policy Research Policy Volunteer Handbook


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