Nicholas Smith

Title: Archivist
Department: V&A Archive

I’m an archivist based in the V&A Archive where I help manage the institutional records of the V&A and its predecessor organisations. These records date from 1837 to the present day and provide a rich resource for the study of the history of the Museum’s buildings and collections. I enjoy helping researchers navigate these collections and blogging about some of the more unusual moments in the V&A’s long and colourful history. I’m currently writing a book about the library of the celebrated eighteenth-century actor David Garrick.

Back to the blog front page

John Dillon – autograph collector

Nowadays we tend to use the terms ‘autograph’ and ‘signature’ interchangeably. When we ask a celebrity for his autograph, he usually scribbles his personal signature. There is, however, a telling distinction between an autograph and a signature, which the autograph collector Ray Rawlins learned through a frosty encounter with a member of the British aristocracy: […]

Keep reading

Languages, Sprachen, Yaziki and more in Design Archives

El Al logo, design, George Him, 1966

By Frankie Alves, Archivist, Design Archives Online I studied languages before I became an archivist, and I always get quite excited when I find something in an archive that isn’t in English.  Unsurprisingly, there is a lot of this in the archives of our Jewish émigré designers, so I’ve had a great excuse to break […]

Keep reading

Henry Cole and the Devil’s violinist

Pencil drawing by Daniel Maclise depicting the debut of Nicolo Paganini

Although I knew that Henry Cole (1808–1882), the V&A’s first Director, was an avid concert-goer with wide ranging musical tastes – from Bach fugues to Bellini’s opera I Capuleti e i Montecchi – I hadn’t expected to find a reference in his diary to the Italian virtuoso violinist Niccolò Paganini (1728–1840): In the Evening I went with Pyne […]

Keep reading

Christmas in Design Archives Online

‘Post early,’ poster, Hans Unger, 1964

By Ruth de Wynter, Project Assistant, Design Archives Online When it comes to Christmas shopping, two perennial problems are what to buy and – if you’re not handing over your thoughtful gift in person – getting it in the post in time to reach its lucky recipient. Hans Schleger and Hans Unger, two of the […]

Keep reading

Introducing Design Archives Online

‘Milling around Lancashire’, photograph, Elsbeth Juda for The Ambassador, 1952

By Alexia Kirk, Archivist and Project Manager, Design Archives Online Having worked in the V&A’s Archive of Art and Design for some years I’ve been lucky to encounter something new, unexpected or fascinating practically every day, among the millions of documents in the thousands of boxes and folders in our stores. It’s also been great […]

Keep reading

Henry Cole’s “faithful dog”

Experiments with The Model of The Memorial of The Exhibition of 1851

As I was flicking through a copy of Elizabeth Bonython’s King Cole: A picture portrait of Sir Henry Cole, KCB 1808-1882 this attractive watercolour caught my eye: Bonython explains that it shows the quadrangle of the South Kensington Museum (as the V&A was known until 1899) in March 1861. Against the backdrop of the Sheepshanks […]

Keep reading

GUEST POST – Design Review: An International Anthology of Design Award-Winning Consumer Products, 1975

Richard Sapper, Tizio, desk lamp, 1971

Guest post by Joanna Weddell, who holds an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award with the V&A Museum and the University of Brighton researching Disseminating Design, a project on the post-war regional impact of the V&A Circulation Department.   This post is in memory of Carol Hogben (1925-2016), member of staff at the Victoria and Albert Museum, 1950-1986. A significant moment in the history […]

Keep reading

New display opens – David Garrick: Book Collector

David Garrick

This display marks the tercentenary of the birth of David Garrick (1717-79), celebrated actor, playwright and Drury Lane theatre manager. ‘Isn’t that next year?’ you ask. Well, yes, but we’re starting the celebrations early at the V&A! In fact, on one occasion, Garrick himself seems to have been uncertain of his age, reminding his brother Peter on […]

Keep reading

Henry Cole’s “Vertical Stands”: early display cases at the V&A

Pillar stand with rotating frame

No sooner had the new South Kensington Museum flung open its doors than its senior officers were agitating for additional space for the display of objects. In 1859, J. C. Robinson, the Museum’s first Superintendent of the Art Collections, complained in his annual report that ‘at the present time the nature and extent of the space […]

Keep reading

International Archives Day: What happened to Gallery 130?

 Today, 9 June, is International Archives Day, one aim of which is to  ‘promote and bring to the attention of the larger public unique,  extraordinary and rare documents preserved in archival  institutions’. This year’s theme is ‘Archives, Harmony and  Friendship’ – but as you’ll see, I’ve strayed off-piste… A couple of months ago I received […]

Keep reading