William Newton

Title: Assistant Curator
Department: Furniture, Textiles and Fashion

Synthetics and saints

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Object Lives scholars in the Clothworkers' Centre study room © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Objects Alive

This morning the Clothworkers’ Centre enjoyed a visit from a group of Canadian academics, part of a research group called Object Lives, funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Their aim, through the close study of objects, is to ‘assess the flow of goods into and from Northern North America’. Today’s session drew […]

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E.1240-1931 Poster No Wet - No Cold; 'No Wet - No Cold'. Colour lithograph poster with a stylised graphic design of umbrellas, advertising the London Underground Railways. Designed by Manner and issued by the Underground Electric Railways Co. of London, Ltd., 1929. Manner Underground Electric Railways Co. of London, Ltd. London 1929 Colour lithograph © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

A very brief history of staying dry

As I said in the first post, to stay dry is a very human wish (unless of course you subscribe to the ‘aquatic ape’ theory put forward by some natural historians); so how did people keep the rain off in the olden days?     There is evidence that aboriginal Americans were the first true […]

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MISC.215:1-1988; Red rubber wellington boots; Dunlop, ca. 1959. Held by the Museum of Childhood © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Forecasting rain

    The V&A’s Textiles and Fashion collection holds tens of thousands of objects and is one of the most comprehensive collections of its type in the world. Researching this huge collection is one of the greatest pleasures of my job but, being a busy boy, I cannot devote as much time to research as […]

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E.524:493-2001
Postcard
Va benone...ecco che piove!; Postcard, Milford Haven Collection, 'Va benone...ecco che piove!', Man putting up his umbrella against 'rain' caused by dog urinating, lithograph, Italian, ca.1904
Italy
Ca. 1904
Lithograph
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Into each life some rain must fall

  If, like me, you have been a victim of Britain’s unpredictable and frequently inclement weather you may have observed two things:   British people have a tendency to discuss the weather frequently and at great length. A lot of time has been expended trying to find methods to stay dry.     The first […]

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Sledge; carved, painted and gilded; Netherlands, 1740-1800 (museum no. 980-1883) © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Seasons Greetings from Furniture and Woodwork

Snow brings the snowman, not the other way round. Snow also brings eye injuries, excuses from railway companies and, most importantly, sledging. Behold this festive transport, replete with carved lion and child, and imagine flying out of it, pink-faced and giggling, catching on a stone at the bottom of a gentle hill covered in barely an […]

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T.13-1937, embroidered picture of St. Barbara, probably a 20th century forgery © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

St. Barbara

Today, almost three weeks late, I present St. Barbara, another spurious Roman saint. She is said to have been born in the mid-3rd century, her father was wealthy, overbearing and pagan. He kept her locked in a tower to protect her from the world, but could not prevent her from secretly becoming a Christian and […]

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Eloi head

St. Eligius

Today’s Sanctus Ignotum, St. Eligius (ca. 588 – 660; known in French as Eloi), followed a successful first career as a goldsmith with a later one as a saint. The signs of his later holiness appear obvious to me (admittedly I am a smug, 21st century know-it-all). He miraculously made two golden thrones using the materials […]

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028

St Martin de Porres

Today on Sanctus Ignotum we have a case study in race relations, and our first South American saint. Born in Lima, Peru in 1579, the illegitimate son of a Spanish knight and a liberated black slave, Martin was initially apprenticed to a barber-surgeon. He joined the Dominican Order as a lay-helper, though his dedication to […]

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A.19-1945, Altarpiece, Saint Boniface, St Philip, St Otillia, St James the Less, St Wolfgang © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

St Wolfgang of Regensburg

Aside from the annual devotionals to All Hallows, 31st October also marks the celebration of the feast of St Wolfgang, a 10th century monk and bishop born in Swabia, south-west Germany, in either 924 or 934. To give some idea of how holy Wolfgang was, he was known in his own time as Eleemosysnarius Major, […]

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Petka's head

St. Petka

This Orthodox saint’s proper name is Paraskeva of the Balkans, but she is also known alternatively as Petka. She was born on the shores of the Sea of Marmara at the start of the 11th century. She claimed that God spoke to her at the age of 10 while in church, quoting Jesus (and therefore […]

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