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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National Knitting Week: Knit for Victory

It is National Knitting Week 14-20 October and to mark the event I was inspired to try a new challenge – to knit from a vintage pattern. Fortunately I am in an ideal position for obtaining vintage knitting patterns, as the Archive of Art and Design has a large collection of knitting ephemera. I began by […]

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Congratulations Beatrix Potter!

One hundred years ago to the day (15 October 1913) Beatrix Potter was married at St. Mary Abbots in Kensington. It seems fitting that this church is agreeably situated near the corner of Hyde Park, roughly equidistant from the V&A Museum and the V&A Archives, which now house the world’s largest collection of Potter artworks, […]

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Photographic guardbooks: Images of India

While looking through our photographic guard books to answer an enquiry about something completely different, I discovered some fascinating nineteenth century photographs of Indian street scenes and architecture.  These evocative images have stayed with me so I thought that I would find out a little bit more about them. The photographs were sent to the […]

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Music for a While: Benjamin Britten at the V&A

While rummaging through a box of old photographs I chanced upon this one of the composer Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) and tenor Peter Pears (1910-1986) taken at recital they gave at the V&A. Tenor Peter Pears and pianist Benjamin Britten on stage during a recital in the Raphael Cartoon gallery. V&A Archive, accession no. A0212. © […]

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Let there be light! Illuminating the V&A in the nineteenth century

Did you know that the V&A was the first museum in the world to use gaslight in its galleries? This innovation was the brainchild of Henry Cole (1818-1882), the V&A’s first Director, who believed that extending the Museum’s opening hours until 10pm on two evenings a week would further his social reformist agenda by enabling working […]

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Computer Power to the People! and other nifty quotes from the computer art archives

‘You can and must understand computers NOW’ is the subtitle to Theodore Nelson’s 1974 book Computer Lib. His passionate manifesto was designed to captivate, inform and inspire people to engage directly with personal computers. He implores ‘If you can get a chance to learn programming it’s an awfully good experience for anybody above fourth grade’ […]

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Making Silver Sculpture for the Victorian Home

The V&A has the largest collection of metal casting models for silver sculpture in the world. Over the last year these models have been giving up their secrets to staff researching their manufacture and design. Staff examining metal patterns for “High Life”, originally modelled by Louis Victor Fréret in c.1860. © Victoria and Albert Museum, […]

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A Stitch in Time: the V&A and the Bayeux Tapestry (3)

Eliza Stothard received the exaggerated report of her death (see my previous post) with ‘mingled feelings of indignation and amusement’ (1). This humiliation came on the back of a newspaper review of Jules Comte’s La Tapisserie de Bayeux (1878) which had sought clumsily to draw a line under the affair – ‘an offence which, however […]

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The first years of the South Kensington Museum: Part 1: Henry Cole’s ‘Wager of a Hat’

Established in 1852, the Museum was initially based at Marlborough House on the Mall in London and it was only in 1857 that it opened on its current site and was named the South Kensington Museum (being re-named the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1899). Work started on the site in 1855 and the Museum […]

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Unwelcome flying visitors to the Museum

Now that the summer months are here moths and other insects are in flight and much in evidence. Clothes moths are a serious threat to the V&A’s collections and especially to textiles, with textiles predominately made from wool being particularly attractive to moths. The risk of moth damage to textiles is not a new problem […]

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