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.

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Henry Cole’s “Vertical Stands”: early display cases at the V&A

Pillar stand with rotating frame

No sooner had the new South Kensington Museum flung open its doors than its senior officers were agitating for additional space for the display of objects. In 1859, J. C. Robinson, the Museum’s first Superintendent of the Art Collections, complained in his annual report that ‘at the present time the nature and extent of the space […]

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The metamorphosis of Anton Prinner

CIRC.323-1939

Print
Metamorphose; Print by Anton Prinner entitled 'Metamorphose'.  France, 1934.
Anton Prinner (1902-1983)
France
1934
Print

Last week I was excited to discover a transgender artist in the collection called Anton Prinner.  Born in Hungary in 1902, he moved to Paris at the end of the Roaring Twenties, where he changed his name to Anton and requested that people address him with male pronouns.  Paris at the time was the epicentre […]

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Happy Birthday, Beatrix Potter!

Beatrix Potter photographed aged 9.

The author and illustrator Beatrix Potter recalled one of her birthdays, her tenth, in her journal: “I remember so clearly – as clearly as the brightness of rich Scotch sunshine on the threadbare carpet – the morning I was ten years old – and my father gave me Mrs Blackburn’s book of birds, drawn from […]

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Curios in the Archive: Elkington Family Treasures

Photograph: old lady
ca.1850
1 item

As an Archives Assistant in the Archive of Art and Design, one task that I am charged with is the box listing and cataloguing of archives. This can be a very interesting process and sometimes leads to the cataloguer making new and exciting discoveries. This is particularly true of personal papers within our collections. One […]

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International Archives Day: What happened to Gallery 130?

BOOKMARK_ICA_cropped

 Today, 9 June, is International Archives Day, one aim of which is to  ‘promote and bring to the attention of the larger public unique,  extraordinary and rare documents preserved in archival  institutions’. This year’s theme is ‘Archives, Harmony and  Friendship’ – but as you’ll see, I’ve strayed off-piste… A couple of months ago I received […]

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Harold Cohen and ‘A Tapestry for Today’

Harold Cohen, Over All, 1967

Guest blog by Joanna Weddell, who holds an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award with the V&A Museum and the University of Brighton researching Disseminating Design, a project on the post-war regional impact of the V&A Circulation Department. This blog commemorates the artist Harold Cohen (1928-2016). In 1968 the V&A Circulation Department (Circ) sent the travelling exhibition A Tapestry for Today to schools of […]

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Colour In Our Collections

Voysey

It seems as if everyone has gone colouring book mad, so what better time to share some examples we have in the archive and offer a chance for you to have a go yourself? One of the most fascinating collections we hold at Blythe House is the Renier Collection, the largest special collection of children’s […]

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Easter Tours of the Galleries with Miss Spiller, 1938

The Luck of Edenhall

On 6 February 1938, Ethel M Spiller, O.B.E., accepted an invitation to conduct two one-hour tours of the galleries on Easter Sunday (17 April). According to the press notice issued on 11 April, the 2.45pm tour would deal with ‘Selected Masterpieces’ and the 4pm tour with ‘English Domestic Arts in the time of Shakespeare’. The […]

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National Libraries Day: Researching the History of the National Art Library

V&A Interior - Entrance to The National Art Library; with architectural pediment above the door; 
V&A Museum; 
23rd December 2013.

Did you know that the Library is older than the V&A itself? Or that one of its early Keepers, the irascible W. H. James Weale, once chased an unwary bookseller through the reading room for trying to sell him a collection of ‘obscene prints’? Or that it counts not one but three copies of Shakespeare’s […]

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Globetrot, Haggle, Report: The V&A Art Referee in the 19th Century

Cropped head

The V&A Archive has just completed a project to catalogue to item-level the contents of 51 boxes of Art Referee Reports. Now we can help museum staff and researchers find provenance information for objects acquired by the South Kensington Museum from 1863-1886. We plan to make the catalogue available online later this year. What are […]

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