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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Courtaulds Textile Design Archive Rehoused

The Archive of Art and Design has just finished moving the Courtaulds archive to a new storage facility in Blythe House. This is great cause for cheer as the new storage makes the collection much easier to access, something that we really want to encourage: it is a truly spectacular resource for anybody studying the development […]

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A Musical Interlude: Henry Cole and Matthew Digby Wyatt

With the London Handel Festival due to start in early March I thought I’d share with you some of my favourite documents in the V&A Archive to get us (well, me!) in the mood: a set of ink drawings of historical musical instruments by the architect and art historian Matthew Digby Wyatt (1820-1877). Henry Cole (1808-1882), the […]

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Captain Fowke’s pontoons

As I was leafing through an early volume of the V&A Archive’s collection of Photographic Guardbooks the eclectic parade of historical treasures passing before me was suddenly interrupted by a seemingly incongruous gallery of Royal Engineers testing collapsible pontoons in the Museum grounds! What possible reason could there be for pasting these photographs into the Guardbooks, I […]

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Victoria and Albert Museum – what’s in a name?

Few museums in the world can have traded under as many names as the V&A in the first 50 years of their existence! The iconic building that we recognise today as the V&A opened in 1909; however, the museum can trace its physical footprint at South Kensington to 1857, and its intellectual roots to 1837. […]

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Paolozzi Welcomes Visitors to Blythe House

The opening of the Clothworkers’ Centre for the Study and Conservation of Textiles and Fashion at Blythe House provided us with a golden opportunity to redisplay one of the Archive of Art and Design’s most popular – and surreal – collections: Eduardo Paolozzi’s Krazy Kat Arkive of Twentieth Century Popular Culture. The room in which the objects […]

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A Christmas Selection Box from the Archives

With Christmas fast approaching we thought we’d take this opportunity to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and also show off some festive finds from the V&A Archives! On a trip to Paris in the 1830s the confectioner Tom Smith conceived the idea of manufacturing bonbons with lucky mottoes. […]

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Edward Bawden – master of linocut

George Orwell might have Room 101 but the V&A has Box 101 – to be precise Circ Box 101. Circ is short for ‘Circulation’ – the department that sent travelling exhibitions around the UK between 1847 and 1977. To give an idea of scale, in 1956 Circulation loaned to 300 art schools who borrowed 1,200 framed […]

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What lies beneath: Foundation stones and time capsules

On 17 May 1899 Queen Victoria travelled in a semi-state open landau the short distance from Buckingham Palace to South Kensington to lay the foundation stone for the new Victoria and Albert Museum buildings designed by the architect Aston Webb (1849-1930). Part of the elaborate ceremony included the placement of an oblong casket, made of […]

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Trajan’s Column – the V&A’s ‘incongruous white elephant’?

The Cast Courts are still the most impressive spaces in the V&A and the plaster cast of Trajan’s Column is at once the most dominant and perhaps most surprising cast in the voluminous Western Cast Court, competing only with the Portico de la Gloria from Santiago de Compostella for attention. Aided by the vibrant original […]

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Queen Victoria’s Trowel

In a well-known quotation, Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) advises the poet and cultural critic Matthew Arnold (1822-1888) that ‘when you come to Royalty, you should lay it [flattery] on with a trowel’ (1). Flattery was much in evidence on the occasion of Queen Victoria’s laying the foundation stone of the new buildings at the Victoria and […]

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