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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Doing their bit for their (adopted) country

"For vitality eat greens”, poster, Hans Schleger, ca. 1942-1944

By Frankie Alves, Archivist, Design Archives Online One of the main tasks of the Design Archives Online project is auditing, which, broadly speaking, means checking that everything in a particular archive is where it’s supposed to be, and that the catalogue description is accurate – and is a great way of getting to know collections […]

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Henry Cole at the Boat Race

Boat race map

How did your crew fare in yesterday’s Cancer Research UK Boat Race (aka Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race)? After last year’s disappointment, it was a relief (for me) to see the Dark Blues triumph in the men’s race. As Henry Cole (1808-1882), the V&A’s first director, went straight from school at Christ’s Hospital, Horsham, to a job as […]

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John Dillon – autograph collector

Nowadays we tend to use the terms ‘autograph’ and ‘signature’ interchangeably. When we ask a celebrity for his autograph, he usually scribbles his personal signature. There is, however, a telling distinction between an autograph and a signature, which the autograph collector Ray Rawlins learned through a frosty encounter with a member of the British aristocracy: […]

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Languages, Sprachen, Yaziki and more in Design Archives

El Al logo, design, George Him, 1966

By Frankie Alves, Archivist, Design Archives Online I studied languages before I became an archivist, and I always get quite excited when I find something in an archive that isn’t in English.  Unsurprisingly, there is a lot of this in the archives of our Jewish émigré designers, so I’ve had a great excuse to break […]

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Henry Cole and the Devil’s violinist

Pencil drawing by Daniel Maclise depicting the debut of Nicolo Paganini

Although I knew that Henry Cole (1808–1882), the V&A’s first Director, was an avid concert-goer with wide ranging musical tastes – from Bach fugues to Bellini’s opera I Capuleti e i Montecchi – I hadn’t expected to find a reference in his diary to the Italian virtuoso violinist Niccolò Paganini (1728–1840): In the Evening I went with Pyne […]

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Christmas in Design Archives Online

‘Post early,’ poster, Hans Unger, 1964

By Ruth de Wynter, Project Assistant, Design Archives Online When it comes to Christmas shopping, two perennial problems are what to buy and – if you’re not handing over your thoughtful gift in person – getting it in the post in time to reach its lucky recipient. Hans Schleger and Hans Unger, two of the […]

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Beatrix Potter: Christmas card designer

Did you know that Beatrix Potter’s first published works were greetings cards? In accordance with her parents’ Unitarian beliefs, Christmas was acknowledged rather than celebrated in the Kensington household Beatrix Potter grew up in. Despite this, she enjoyed making Christmas and New Year cards for her relatives as a young woman. She said of those […]

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Introducing Design Archives Online

‘Milling around Lancashire’, photograph, Elsbeth Juda for The Ambassador, 1952

By Alexia Kirk, Archivist and Project Manager, Design Archives Online Having worked in the V&A’s Archive of Art and Design for some years I’ve been lucky to encounter something new, unexpected or fascinating practically every day, among the millions of documents in the thousands of boxes and folders in our stores. It’s also been great […]

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Henry Cole’s “faithful dog”

Experiments with The Model of The Memorial of The Exhibition of 1851

As I was flicking through a copy of Elizabeth Bonython’s King Cole: A picture portrait of Sir Henry Cole, KCB 1808-1882 this attractive watercolour caught my eye: Bonython explains that it shows the quadrangle of the South Kensington Museum (as the V&A was known until 1899) in March 1861. Against the backdrop of the Sheepshanks […]

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GUEST POST – Design Review: An International Anthology of Design Award-Winning Consumer Products, 1975

Richard Sapper, Tizio, desk lamp, 1971

Guest post 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 post is in memory of Carol Hogben (1925-2016), member of staff at the Victoria and Albert Museum, 1950-1986. A significant moment in the history […]

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