In an unusual move for a major British photographer, Morley and his family and close friends spent years amassing his papers and images and preparing to transfer them to a publicly accessible collection in the UK, rather than consigning them to the open market for sale through auction houses around the world.
The National Media Museum, based in Bradford, was chosen by Morley and his advisers as the most suitable home for his archive, in preference to academic collections mainly in the US. The transfer of the collection, much of which is currently in Australia and America, to West Yorkshire is expected to be completed within weeks. It comprises an extraordinarily detailed account, in pictures and words, of a fraught and flamboyant era in British social history.
The Morley archive – which contains tens of thousands of prints, negatives and contact sheets, and a large amount of personal correspondence, notebooks and technical notes – had been meticulously prepared over several years by Morley, his family and a close friend, the American photography curator and authority David Knaus. Morley was horrified at the prospect of his life's work and his papers being auctioned off after his death, and wanted as much as possible to be entrusted to an academic or cultural institution in Britain, accessible by the public, said Knaus.