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.

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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International Archives Day: What happened to Gallery 130?

BOOKMARK_ICA_cropped

 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 […]

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Harold Cohen and ‘A Tapestry for Today’

Harold Cohen, Over All, 1967

Guest blog 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 blog commemorates the artist Harold Cohen (1928-2016). In 1968 the V&A Circulation Department (Circ) sent the travelling exhibition A Tapestry for Today to schools of […]

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Easter Tours of the Galleries with Miss Spiller, 1938

The Luck of Edenhall

On 6 February 1938, Ethel M Spiller, O.B.E., accepted an invitation to conduct two one-hour tours of the galleries on Easter Sunday (17 April). According to the press notice issued on 11 April, the 2.45pm tour would deal with ‘Selected Masterpieces’ and the 4pm tour with ‘English Domestic Arts in the time of Shakespeare’. The […]

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National Libraries Day: Researching the History of the National Art Library

V&A Interior - Entrance to The National Art Library; with architectural pediment above the door; 
V&A Museum; 
23rd December 2013.

Did you know that the Library is older than the V&A itself? Or that one of its early Keepers, the irascible W. H. James Weale, once chased an unwary bookseller through the reading room for trying to sell him a collection of ‘obscene prints’? Or that it counts not one but three copies of Shakespeare’s […]

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Christmas with the Coles

The first Christmas card 1843

In 1843 the indefatigable Henry Cole (1808-82), who would later become the V&A’s first Director, devised the first Christmas greeting card (Cole notched up a lot of ‘firsts’ during his impressive civil service career). He commissioned John Callcott Horsley to design it. In his diary entry for 17 December 1843, Cole recorded that ‘In the […]

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