Tales from the Archives

Through Tales from the Archives we plan to share with you interesting facts about the history of the V&A and hidden stories from our various archives, keep you informed about our current and future projects, give you sneak previews of our new acquisitions and insights into what it is like to run a busy archive service.

The Victoria and Albert Museum Archives comprise:
The Archive of Art and Design (AAD), which collects, conserves and makes available for research the archives of individuals, associations and companies involved in design and the applied arts
The Beatrix Potter Collections), which constitute the world’s largest assemblage of Beatrix Potter’s drawings, literary manuscripts, correspondence, photographs and related materials
The V&A Archive, which manages the Museum’s institutional records and supports research into the collections and history of the V&A, and the broader history of art and design.

Back to the blog front page

Of objects and labels: Mr Beresford visits the V&A

'Lago Maggiore from Stresa' by Sir Alfred East

The majority of the 50,000 historical correspondence (or nominal) files in the V&A Archive document the acquisition and loan of museum objects. Some, however, contain correspondence and papers of a more general nature. In the file for George Charles Beresford (1864-1938) we find a combination of acquisition papers and visitor feedback, the latter prompted by a […]

Keep reading

A Tale of Two Ernsts

photo 1

Last week I fell victim to a Surrealist joke, some 80 years after its creation! A sure-fire way to discover new things in the Word & Image department is to have a gander at what other people have requested to see from the stores.  On any given day you will see a wide variety of […]

Keep reading

The Early Music Movement and the V&A

Lute

In Britain the adoption of period instruments and historically informed practices (HIP) for the performance of ‘early music’ (generally understood to encompass music of the Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque periods) dates to the 1970s, with some ensembles, such as the Deller Consort, blazing a trail earlier still. Looking through the concert files in the V&A […]

Keep reading

Planning a Royal visit: traffic management and crowd control in 1899

Leaving Buckinham Palace

Traffic management and crowd control were uppermost on Sir John Donnelly’s mind when he sat down to dictate a memo to the Vice President of the Committee of Education on 20 April 1899. The foundation stone laying ceremony for the new museum buildings at South Kensington was only four weeks away and Donnelly was concerned […]

Keep reading

Richard Redgrave (1804-1888): A Reluctant Traveller

Cole and Redgrave

You’d think that the opportunity to travel around Italy at the Museum’s expense, hunting for priceless late Medieval and Renaissance treasures to send back to South Kensington, would have been considered by a nineteenth-century curator as one of the perks of the job. Not so with Richard Redgrave. Redgrave was a painter and arts administrator; […]

Keep reading

Behind the scenes: The V&A Archives

Explore Your Archive

Monday 17 November (2.00 pm) Blythe House, 23 Blythe Road, London W14 0QX The Victoria and Albert Museum invites you to discover some of the amazing stories hidden within its extensive archives as part of the Explore Your Archive campaign Archives across the UK and Ireland are taking part to raise awareness of the value of […]

Keep reading

New archive subject guide to the India Museum and Indian Collections

2006AH4167

Tippoo’s Tiger – a large wooden semi-automaton of a tiger devouring an unlucky European gentleman – is one of the V&A’s most popular exhibits. In the V&A Archive we’ve seen a growing interest in our documentary holdings relating to the history of the India Museum and growth of the Indian Collections. These holdings include acquisition […]

Keep reading

Skeletons in the vaults; or, the V&A bone collectors

CIS:4974-1910

The Archive’s S.Ex register makes for interesting reading – but not for the reason its suggestive title may have duped us momentarily into thinking! S.Ex (or School Examples) objects were acquired for the V&A’s Circulation Department between 1882 and 1892, and used largely for still life cases, modelling or anatomical study. Of the approximately 1,200 […]

Keep reading

WW1 Era Clothing: Archive of Art and Design Resources for Re-enactors and Costumers

Pattern for a Chesterfield coat, ca.1911 - ca.1928. Archive of Art and Design, AAD/2008/10/1/5/3. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The centenary of the beginning of World War One this year has inspired re-enactors and costumers to take up their needles and explore the clothing of the period. I’d have been tempted to join in myself if I wasn’t suffering from sewing fatigue from my last project, a 1760s Rococo sacque back gown, which was […]

Keep reading

An Unknown Soldier? The V&A’s First World War Memorial

IMAG0589

Simple and solemn in cream Hopton Wood stone, the V&A’s monument to its 1914-18 war dead sits unobtrusively in the main entrance hall. Designed in 1919 by the sculptor and typographer Eric Gill, it was commissioned by the Museum with the dual aims of commemorating the fallen and acquiring an example of Gill lettering. As […]

Keep reading