In terms of quantity, the Department of Prints and Drawings is the largest
in the museum, since it counts 130,000 items in its inventory.
It is also one of the very first collections of its kind in the world. The works are stored for protection against variations of light and temperature and are only rarely exhibited, and visitors wishing to view the drawings are invited to ask at the curator's office. The department also possesses more than 16,000 engraved copper plates (engravings on copper for printing on paper). The collections of copper engraving date from the Renaissance right up to contemporary art.
Some works are exhibited on a rota basis in areas reserved for the department in the paintings sections, or during frequent temporary exhibitions.