Warburg’s notions of the Nachleben der Antike, the afterlife of antiquity from the earliest times to the contemporary, and of the Pathosformel, the apparently formulaic expression of the emotions in art, may best be explored in the two unique collections that lie at the centre of the material resources of the Institute: the library, with its famous system of classification, and the massive photo collection, long a major iconographic resource. The collection has become a seedbed for the development of new ways of thinking about digital image collections. The Institute’s Archives contain the archives of Aby Warburg and other distinguished scholars associated with the Institute from its origin to the present. They continue to yield extraordinary documents relating to his work and his generative role in the intellectual history of the twentieth century. 

The Warburg Institute's Photographic Collection contains c. 400,000 photographs of sculptures, paintings, drawings, prints, tapestries and other forms of imagery. The Collection was begun by Aby Warburg in the late 1880s, and includes tens of thousands of late nineteenth-and early twentieth-century photographs and slides, together with images added since the Institute came to London in 1933. The collection is organised iconographically: photographs are ordered not by artist or by period, but by subject. The Collection is currently being digitized: for details of this project, see the Iconographic Database.

The Archive of the Institute preserves the working materials and papers of the Institute’s founder Aby M. Warburg (1866-1929) and collections of papers of other distinguished scholars closely associated with the Institute from its days in Hamburg to the present. The holdings also contain documents relating to the history of the Institute as well as its academic and administrative records. The Archive is accessible by appointment.