The Factory Presents…

We are a group of cataloguers, photographers, curators and volunteers, nicknamed ‘the Factory’. We are working through the stored collections of the Prints, Designs, Photographs, Paintings and Digital Art sections of the Word and Image department at the V&A, making sure that images and existing data about the items we hold are available to the public via Search the Collections.

These posts are about the objects we come across during our work cataloguing, photographing and curating the Word and Image collections of Prints, Designs, Photographs, Paintings and Digital Art currently in store at the V&A. Anything you see here is available to view in the Prints and Drawings Study Room.

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The Saga of Letitia and Rachel

The Saga of Letitla and Rachel

One of the unexpected pleasures of cataloguing a collection is when hidden treasures are discovered hidden behind dry archive descriptions, such as: “ANONYMOUS : Caricatures The Saga of Letitia and Rachel.  Drawings (23) satirizing a contemporary incident (?).  English, c.1910.” From the first image, my attention was grabbed by these high-quality charming drawings, far too […]

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French Postcards: History Revealed

E.J. Dingwall @ Eric Dingwall Archive MS912 Senate House Library, The University of London

In April 1982, a typewritten letter from E.J. Dingwall (1891?-1986) of St. Leonards-on-Sea addressed to the ‘The Keeper’ of the ‘Photographic & Postcard Dept.’ was forwarded to the Curator of Photographs at the Victoria and Albert Museum.  Dingwall was following up on his 1977 correspondence with Peter Castle, Keeper of the Library at the Museum, concerning […]

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The owls are not what they seem…


While on the lookout for spooky creatures to blog about for Halloween I noticed something curious – why are there so many owls in the Word and Image collection? It soon became clear that most of them were donated by the same man, Walter Strachan, but this raised more questions – who was he, how did his collection […]

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Every Donkey has his Carte de Visite.

Satirical card showing a dog delivering a carte-de-visite

In 1854, a Frenchman, André Adolphe Eugène Disdéri, patented a new form of photograph called the carte de visite. These were small images, typically about 54 mm × 89 mm, mounted on thicker cards that measured 64 by 100 mm; about the same size as visiting-cards (literally, carte de visite). Disidéri’s invention meant that multiple copies […]

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Who’s in a Name? Paquin and the Named Design, 1898-1950

'Au Son du Cor.' Suit designed by Lou Claverie for Paquin, Winter 1950-51

In the world of fashion since the 20th century, many dresses have names that were given to them during the design process. Among the most famous examples are ‘Bar,’ the cream and black skirt suit that became the most widely recognised ensemble from Christian Dior’s 1947 ‘New Look’ collection; and ‘Sorbet,’ Paul Poiret’s 1913 kimono-styled, […]

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Living the high life in Hackney

Coloured woodcut by an unknown artist, c. 1811. Museum no. E.4766-1923

  This colourful print of a hot-air balloon flight caught my eye while I was cataloguing a collection of prints and drawings relating to Hackney and other East London boroughs. As it happens to be the 204th anniversary of the event depicted, it seemed the perfect opportunity to share the story. James Sadler (1753-1828) was […]

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Haute Sportswear at Paquin, 1905-1950

'Télémark.' Forest-green ski suit with blouson bodice and long trousers, and matching long overcoat. Designed by Ana de Pombo for Paquin, Winter 1935-36.

A common perception of haute couture is that it is about glamorous evening gowns and special occasion day wear. These days, perhaps that isn’t so far off the mark, but there was a time when couturiers produced clothing for almost any occasion that a lady might require special garments for. Some establishments, such as the […]

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Alfred Percival Maudslay and the V&A


Albumen print from a gelatin dry plate negative

These striking photographs caught my eye recently, as I don’t normally come across material relating to the Maya in the Photographs Collection. Research showed me they were taken by Alfred Percival Maudslay (1850-1931), a British colonial diplomat, explorer and archaeologist who was one of the first modern archeologists to study the Mayan civilization. He began his career working for the […]

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Gertrude Bell and Hatra, Iraq


Photograph depicting a detail of a lintel in room 10 of the summer palace at Hatra, Iraq.

Here at the V&A we have recently found a small number of photographs taken by the writer, archaeologist, and political administrator Gertrude Bell. These came to light when the recent destruction of Iraqi cultural sites prompted us to look through our collection to discover if we had any images of the places which have been damaged or destroyed. These photographs show […]

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K.A.C. Creswell’s Middle East Views at the V&A


Keppel Archibald Cameron (Professor Sir) Creswell (1879-1974), The views from this acquisition were most probably produced by Creswell himself.  Archive records make reference to the photographs having been taken to a 'consistent plan of illustrating Mahommedan[sic] architecture chronologically'.  While Creswell also collected views made by other photographers working in the region, the timing of the offer, the wording in much of the correspondence, and Creswell's insistence on controlling the copyright, suggests that these views were taken by Creswell himself.
Egypt; Cairo
Archival papers relating to this acquistion suggest that these views were taken by Professor Creswell during time spent documenting Islamic architecture in the Middle East starting in 1919.  They were first offered to the Art Library at the V&A in September 1920 and despatched by Creswell in batches, with the order completed 13 April 1921. 1919 to 1921
Black and white photograph

As part of a long term and ongoing project to digitize the whole of the V&A’s collection, a large archive of Middle East topographical photographs dating from the mid-19th century to early-20th century is being analysed and systematically catalogued. These views first came into the collection through the National Art Library (NAL) which began acquiring […]

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