ICCROM Register of Heritage Samples Archives
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Forbes Pigment Collection

Type Collection

Date of creation of the archive


Date of closure of the archive


Creator(s) of the archive

Edward Waldo Forbes

Summary Description

A collection of pigments, the earliest comes from the Lascaux Caves to current production. The original part of the collection dates in the first half of the 20th century. Collecting in earnest resumed in the early 21st century. The pigments are mostly from colourmen in United Kingdom/Europe and North America, with some samples from other parts of the world such as Japan, Australia and Africa. There is also a significant selection of raw material from which the pigment is derived.


Type and number of units
3 000 samples approx.

Material type

Raw material to make pigment

Geographic Distribution

Mostly from United Kingdom/Europe and North America. Some samples from Japan, Australia and Africa.

Statement of Significance

This is a collection of pigments started by Edward Walso Forbes, the founder of the field of technical art history. It contains many unusual and well documented samples of pigments and their sources, including some that are no longer readily available. The pigments have been used in widely accessed databases such as the infrared specta database of the Infrared and Raman Users Goup (IRUG). It has become part of the identity of the Harvard Art Museums.


Yes - upon request

Access requirements

Access is given to professionals with a proven interest in pigments/artists materials during museum visiting hours by appointment.


Art History
Reference collection
Technical art history

Finding aids

The pigment collection is available in the Harvard Art Museums "Browse our Collections" page.

External link