The Sainsbury Archive

The Sainsbury Archive documents the history of Sainsbury’s from its foundation in Drury Lane in 1869 and the transformation that has occurred in retailing since the mid-19th century.

About the collection

The core of the archive was formed at the time of the company’s centenary in 1969 and has steadily grown to more than 16,000 items, including documents, objects (ranging from food preparation and testing equipment, to product packaging and staff uniforms), photographs and audiovisual material.

The collection includes a large number of photographs and artefacts, and is particularly strong in the areas of product packaging, advertising and retail stores. The archive also includes key company records such as reports and accounts and press releases, as well as material relating to all aspects of the business, including head office operations, food supply, production and distribution, subsidiary companies and staff records.

Using the archive

In April 2003, the Sainsbury Archive became an independent charitable trust; the Sainsbury Study Centre at the Museum of London Docklands opens up access to this rich resource for specialist and general research on a wide range of topics including:

  • business and retail history
  • shopping and eating habits
  • architecture and urban development 
  • advertising, display,  packaging and product design
  • local and family history

The majority of material from the Sainsbury Archive is accessible in the Search Room by appointment.

More than 19,000 catalogue descriptions and 2000 digital images can now also be accessed via the online catalogue (external link). The catalogue also includes a directory of key biographical information for the people and places with links to Sainsbury’s, including details of historical store locations.  Cataloguing and digitisation work is ongoing and new records are added on a regular basis. If you can't find what you are looking for, please contact the Archivist.

To browse and search the digital archive of Sainsbury’s in-house magazine JS Journal (now The Journal) from the first issue in December 1946 to the present day, visit JS Journal Online (external link). The digital archive is updated twice yearly and is current to the previous six months.

The future

The archive constitutes a living record of Sainsbury’s and new material continues to be transferred to the archive when it has passed out of current business use. The archive also welcomes donations of any other significant items that demonstrate the history and evolution of the Company.