The Guard Book Project – A Glimpse Into the Past

The Museum as it Was, 1929 – 1950.

Take a look at this interior from 1936, and where do you think it is?..

Central View of The Octagon Court ; with room sets displays;

Central View of The Octagon Court ; with room sets displays;
May 1936. ©Victoria & Albert Museum, London

…no, it`s not the main entrance, this is Gallery 40, without the Mezzanine floor, and not a costume in site. It was known at the time as The Octagon Court, Furniture Displays Gallery, each period displayed in its own separate bays in groups of four around the area, complete with a set of furniture. Two examples appearing below of English Furniture, 1785 – 95 & 1750 – 60.

Room sets of English Furniture, 1785 - 95 & 1750 - 60, Octagon Court, January 1936. ©Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Room sets of English Furniture, 1785 – 95 & 1750 – 60, Octagon Court, January 1936. ©Victoria & Albert Museum, London

The Guard Book archive (MA/32), together with the Museum Archive (MA/22) are valuable photographic records & research tools into the museums history & environments, with views of Gallery Spaces, Exhibitions & Activities.

The current set of scanned Guard Books, cover the years 1928 to 1950, showing examples of areas of the museum, styles of displays & exhibitions, and how some activities changed during this period.

The two examples below are of an Exhibition of Posters in 1931, and of British Film Art in 1948.

The Posters Exhibition, North Court, July 1931. ©Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

The British & Foreign Posters Exhibition, North Court, July 1931. ©Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

 

The Film Art Exhibition, Galleries 70 to 73, June 1948. ©Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

The British Film Art Exhibition, Galleries 70 to 73, May 1948. ©Victoria & Albert Museum, London.


The Museum is constantly in the process of looking at and changing its visual brand and identity, as it has done in the past, for example with changes in lettering styles for signs & other branding.

The example below is lettering for The V&A Picture Book No. 32, in December 1932.

Lettering for The V&A Picture Book No.32; December 1932. ©Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Lettering for The V&A Picture Book No.32; December 1932. ©Victoria & Albert Museum, London

…and in 1950 the designs for lettering for use in the museum was released, not only for picture books, but also for room signage & general use.

Lettering for use in the museum, for signage;

Lettering for use in the museum, for signage;  October 1950. ©Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

…both however, do seem to be very close in style to panels of lettering now back on display in the sculpture gallery, by Eric Gill. These were once part of our collection (A.25-1931, A.26-1931), returned to the Tate Gallery in 1986, but then loaned back to us in 2006. (LOAN:TATE.157-2006, LOAN.159-2006).

Alphabet of Capitals; Hoptonwood Stone, by Eric Gill (1882 - 1940). photographed in 1931; formerly A.25-1931; A.26-1931; now LOAN:TATE.157-2006; LOAN:TATE.159-2006 ©Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Alphabet of Capitals; Hoptonwood Stone, by Eric Gill (1882 – 1940). photographed in 1931; formerly A.25-1931; A.26-1931; now LOAN:TATE.157-2006; LOAN:TATE.159-2006 ©Victoria & Albert Museum, London

The displays themselves can sometimes vary, but usually they are standard cases that have been used for many years, an example below being The Nicholas Hilliard & The Elizabethans (no, not a 1960s band, the artist…) Exhibition..

Displays of The Nicholas Hilliard & The Elizabethans Exhibition, June 1947 @Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Displays of The Nicholas Hilliard & The Elizabethans Exhibition, June 1947 ©Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

Compare this to a  rather strange exhibition display of English Pottery Old & New, held in August 1935, in the North Court, that looks very similar to a shop, with some of the objects not in any cases at all.

The V&A Exhibition : English Pottery Old & New; with The Council of Art & Industry, April - August, 1935; North Court; ©Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

The V&A Exhibition : English Pottery Old & New; with The Council of Art & Industry, April – August, 1935; North Court; ©Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

Conventional display cabinets were used, such as the Circulation Department display cases of 1940, below, which were still being used in the late 1990s and beyond.

Circulation Department Display Cases;

Circulation Department Display Cases;
V&A Museum; November 1940 ©Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

…and in 1949, a new set of display cases, were displayed in their own right, in three, and two side versions.

The New Three sided & Two Sided Display Cabinets; V&A Museum, 1949. ©Victoria & Albert Museum, London

The New Three sided & Two Sided Display Cabinets; V&A Museum, 1949. ©Victoria & Albert Museum, London

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…which are seen here below, still in use in Gallery 43 in Late 2001, before the installation of the V&A Shop.

Gallery 43, V&A Museum; ;

Gallery 43, V&A Museum; October 2001.

Large items, such as 5 Adelphi Terrace ceiling where photographed in situ before their accession as object.

On the left below, is how it looks now, in all its glory, but seen on the right as it was in 1936 when it was acquired, the panels are all overpainted..

Ceiling; painted plaster; from 5 Adelphi Terrace; designed by Robert Adam (1728 - 92).

Ceiling; painted plaster; from 5 Adelphi Terrace; designed by Robert Adam (1728 – 92).
W.43-1936 ©Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

 

Ceiling; painted plaster; from 5 Adelphi Terrace; designed by Robert Adam (1728 - 92).

Ceiling; painted plaster; from 5 Adelphi Terrace; designed by Robert Adam (1728 – 92).
W.43-1936 as it was in 1936. ©Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

 

Other larger items, outside the museum, but not part of the collection, usually rooms, panelling or ceilings were photographed in their entirety before being dismantled or destroyed, an example appearing below.

The Billiard & Drawing Room Ceilings of The Garden Club, 9 Chesterfield Gardens; destroyed in 1937.

The Billiard & Drawing Room Ceilings of The Garden Club, 9 Chesterfield Gardens; photographed before being destroyed in 1937. ©Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

There were also displays photographed off site, with particular reference to the Circulation department`s Education and Activity displays at Leicester Square Station in 1939.

V&A Circulation Department Displays for Loans to Museums & Secondary Schools;

V&A Circulation Department Displays for Loans to Museums & Secondary Schools;
Leicester Square Tube Station, London;
April 1939. ©Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

…and maybe more poignantly, Harrods Shop Window displays, photographed in August 1939, before the lights went out for the years of the War…

Shop window displays of Chalk White Hats & Turkish Towels at Harrods, London, August 1939. ©Victoria & Albert Museum

Shop window displays of Chalk White Hats & Turkish Towels at Harrods, London, August 1939. ©Victoria & Albert Museum

 

 

And Finally…. the Staff of the Museum are also (very) important, whether its loading an LNER goods van at the works entrance in April 1939.

L.N.E.R.Containers being loaded by members of the Packing Department;

L.N.E.R.Containers being loaded by members of the Packing Department;
V&A Museum;
April 1939.

….Curators like Mr.Edwards & Mr.James, discussing items in The Hatton Garden Room, in December 1934, (hope that`s not an object he is sitting on…)

Curators Mr.Edwards & Mr.James in The Hatton Garden Room, December 1934. ©Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

Curators Mr.Edwards & Mr.James in The Hatton Garden Room, December 1934. ©Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

 

 

 

 

 

…and of course not to be forgotten, the young lady who sneaks out to wear the collection on occasions….

Model (or staff member) wearing items Day Dress & Cloak, English c.1842

Model (or staff member) wearing items Day Dress & Cloak, English c.1842
T.166-1930; T.167-1930; V&A Museum, November 1930. ©Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

….they all show a little bit of how it was then….!

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