Victoria and Albert Museum

The world’s greatest museum of art and design

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Nicholas Smith

Author: Nicholas Smith (Archivist)
In a previous post I revealed the strange circumstances under which the V&A came to own a piece of the Bayeux tapestry. Here I explain why it was returned to Bayeux and how Henry Cole inadvertently planted the seeds of controversy regarding the identity of the person who spirited it away to England in the first place.The V&A was eager to have the ‘celebrated Bayeux Tapestry’...
Author: Nicholas Smith (Archivist)
Did you know that Henry Cole (1808-1882), the V&A’s first director, started his professional career as an archivist – ‘sub-commissioner’ was his actual job title – in the Records Commission (the forerunner of the National Archives)? Here he undertook the important archival work of calendaring, indexing, sorting, transcribing, and preserving records; and when the...
Author: Nicholas Smith (Archivist)
Commemorative Suffragette silk scarf with purple, green and white vertical stripes, Museum no. T.20-1946. © Victoria and Albert MuseumOn 10 February 1913, the V&A’s Director, Cecil Harcourt-Smith, received disturbing intelligence of an audacious plot by members of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) to vandalise the Museum’s priceless treasures.The suffragette...
Author: Nicholas Smith (Archivist)
Of the 750 copies of Shakespeare’s First Folio – the first collected edition of the Bard’s plays – printed in 1623, 232 are known to survive. There are probably others waiting to be found, perhaps lying forgotten in dusty attics or locked away in the private libraries of reclusive billionaire bibliophiles!Bust, terracotta, of Shakespeare, by John Michael Rysbrack, England...
Bayeux tapestry
Author: Nicholas Smith (Archivist)
Photograph of the Bayeux Tapestry by Cundall & Co., 1873. Museum no. E.573:25-2005. © Victoria and Albert Museum, LondonIt seems extraordinary but the V&A once owned a piece of the Bayeux tapestry!Measuring 3¼ in x 2½ in, it was one of two fragments removed surreptitiously (?) by Charles Stothard (1786-1821) sometime between 1816 and 1818 when he was engaged in...
Author: Nicholas Smith (Archivist)
For the V&A Archive’s contribution to International Women’s Month, I have chosen to profile Marion Thring, the first full-time female guide-lecturer at the V&A.Today, approximately 65% of the V&A’s workforce is female. This was not always the case; in the early twentieth century, museum work was considered a predominantly masculine vocation. Consequently, when Marion...
Author: Nicholas Smith (Archivist)
Last September Dr Earle Havens from Johns Hopkins University approached me about the V&A Archive hosting a group of eight undergraduate students as part of their Museums and Society Programme visit to London. The V&A Archive is visited regularly by individual researchers from overseas, who study our unique and irreplaceable documents for a range of academic and leisure purposes: book...
Author: Nicholas Smith (Archivist)
Did you know that Henry Cole (1808-1882), the V&A’s first director, started his professional career as an archivist – ‘sub-commissioner’ was his actual job title – in the Records Commission (the forerunner of the National Archives)? Here he undertook the important archival work of calendaring, indexing, sorting, transcribing, and preserving records; and when the...

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