Tucked in alongside the National Gallery in a modest but solid nineteenth-century building facing St Martin's Church, the National Portrait Gallery (NPG) enjoys a central position in London and in English national life. The National in the Portrait Gallery's name invites attention because it represents much more than its status as a state-funded institution: it represents the NPG's effort to define the nation itself. The Portrait Gallery's collection was initially conceived of as a repository of historical documents, and it was imagined that its collection of portraits would illustrate and delineate a history of the nation. If the content of its representation of national history was rarely a matter for contest, the history of the Portrait Gallery's locations suggest that there was a great deal more conflict over defining the nation to which its collection would be accessible. The Bethnal Green Museum was, like its contemporaries the Whitechapel and South London art galleries, a philanthropic institution.