William Newton

Title: Assistant Curator
Department: Museum of Childhood

I work at the V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green. I'm interested in plastic, popular culture, radios and medieval churches.

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More Than Meets the Eye: Transformers, me and the MoC

Ironhide, the Autobots' second in command, shown transformed with his 'battle sled'. Museum no. B.105-1994, Copyright Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Transformers are alien robots hailing from the planet Cybertron, a metallic world riven by aeons of civil war between Heroic Autobots and Evil Decepticons. The differences between these two factions are absolute: Autobots are peace-loving, kind and curious about humanity; Decepticons are bellicose, authoritarian and contemptuous of other lifeforms. Transformers came to Earth by accident: […]

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New acquisition: Brionvega RR126 ‘radiofonografo’

027

  This radiogram is a musical pet, or at least that’s how it was described when it appeared in Italy in 1966, the product of the imaginations of the Castiglioni brothers, Achille (1918-2002) and Pier Giacomo (1913-1968). It is the Furniture and Woodwork collections’ first acquisition of 2016.   Brionvega produced many cutting-edge audio-visual products […]

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New acquisition: Storm umbrella

T.2-2015

Umbrellas have been used to keep dry since distant antiquity, their basic shape has not changed a great deal throughout history. During the course of my research I found that each year, on average, around 1000 new patents are registered worldwide for ‘improved’ umbrella designs. New designs can include improved, stronger rib technology or alterations […]

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New acquisition: Hunter ensemble, A/W 2014

T.3-2015 Ensemble (coat, trousers, pair of boots, bag); Hunter, A/W 2014 Great Britain; China © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

This waterproof ensemble was donated to V&A this earlier year by welly company Hunter, it takes pride of place in our rainwear display in the fashion gallery. It formed part of Hunter’s spectacular first appearance at London Fashion Week in February 2014, a show which presented a bold new direction for a brand often associated […]

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Clothworkers’ Object Study Day, 27th May

Hanne Faurby with Eveline Gordon embroidery samples © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

At the end of May we welcomed visitors to a series of talks given at the Clothworkers’ Centre by V&A staff, the second of our Clothworkers’ study days. In these talks, we showcased some of the research that we’ve undertaken within the grand tiled walls of Blythe House. As in October, the talks were extremely […]

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Trench coats: from real mud to Nostalgia of Mud

Raincoat 'Witches' 1983 Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren Given by David Barber, in memory of Rupert Michael Dolan T.268:1, 2-1991 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

‘Rustic’ linen smock-shirts were worn by farmhands well into the 19th century. These garments were woven in such a way that they would shrink and tighten when damp, giving them a degree of water resistance: this is also the principle on which gabardine works. Gabardine was invented by Thomas Burberry, who patented it in 1879. With […]

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Objects Alive

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

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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A very brief history of staying dry

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

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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Forecasting rain

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

    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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Into each life some rain must fall

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

  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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