David Bowie's archives will give a fascinating insight into his creative genius – Susan Dalgety

David Bowie was a famous hoarder. He kept everything from his 50-year career, including hand-written lyrics and his absolutely fabulous and often fantastical stage costumes.

He also collected tens of thousands of books – some he kept in his Manhattan home, but most were stored, along with his archive of personal memorabilia, in warehouses in upstate New York. And now his family has gifted these precious archives to the nation.

The V&A museum has acquired 80,000 items, which from 2025 will be made available to the public at the new David Bowie Centre for the Study of Performing Arts in London. I have already started saving for my trip south. I saw a glimpse of his creative genius at work during the V&A’s first exhibition of a selection of his archives in 2013, three years before he died.

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I will never forget the thrill of seeing his stage designs for a Ziggy Stardust concert, carefully sketched out in a cheap, lined notebook. Here was the creative process at work, laid out for all to see.

The family of David Bowie, pictured performing in 2004, has gifted his archives to the nation (Picture: Yui Mok/PA)
The family of David Bowie, pictured performing in 2004, has gifted his archives to the nation (Picture: Yui Mok/PA)
The family of David Bowie, pictured performing in 2004, has gifted his archives to the nation (Picture: Yui Mok/PA)

And I cried when I saw the same exhibition in New York in 2018. Some new exhibits had been added, including a much more expensive notebook where he had planned his last album, BlackStar, released only two days before he died from cancer. As a young performer, he had sketched out his stage shows with precision, as a 69-year-old, he plotted his imminent death with equal care.

We all have our own personal archives, from old love letters now too embarrassing or heart-breaking to read to ticket stubs for bands long forgotten. I particularly cherish the gaudy Mother’s Day plate that my sons gave me four decades ago. Nothing I have saved will be worthy of a museum when I die, but I hope that my family will take the time to sift through the assorted newspaper cuttings, photographs and books and remember me fondly, before tossing them in the recycling bin.

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Until then, I am comforted by the fact that some of my happiest memories are scattered around my flat, on bookshelves and hanging on walls, some even under my bed. Hardly the V&A but precious all the same.