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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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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A Stitch in Time: the V&A and the Bayeux Tapestry (2)

In a previous post I revealed the strange circumstances under which the V&A came to own a piece of the Bayeux tapestry. Here I explain why it was returned to Bayeux and how Henry Cole inadvertently planted the seeds of controversy regarding the identity of the person who spirited it away to England in the […]

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Tales from the Archives

Did you know that Henry Cole (1808-1882), the V&A’s first director, started his professional career as an archivist – ‘sub-commissioner’ was his actual job title – in the Records Commission (the forerunner of the National Archives)? Here he undertook the important archival work of calendaring, indexing, sorting, transcribing, and preserving records; and when the occasion […]

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Suffragettes plot to raid the V&A

Commemorative Suffragette silk scarf with purple, green and white vertical stripes, Museum no. T.20-1946. © Victoria and Albert Museum On 10 February 1913, the V&A’s Director, Cecil Harcourt-Smith, received disturbing intelligence of an audacious plot by members of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) to vandalise the Museum’s priceless treasures. The suffragette movement had […]

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Shakespeare’s First Folio

Of the 750 copies of Shakespeare’s First Folio – the first collected edition of the Bard’s plays – printed in 1623, 232 are known to survive. There are probably others waiting to be found, perhaps lying forgotten in dusty attics or locked away in the private libraries of reclusive billionaire bibliophiles! Bust, terracotta, of Shakespeare, […]

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A Stitch in Time: the V&A and the Bayeux Tapestry (1)

Photograph of the Bayeux Tapestry by Cundall & Co., 1873. Museum no. E.573:25-2005. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London It seems extraordinary but the V&A once owned a piece of the Bayeux tapestry! Measuring 3¼ in x 2½ in, it was one of two fragments removed surreptitiously (?) by Charles Stothard (1786-1821) sometime between 1816 […]

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Marion Thring – First Female Guide-Lecturer at the V&A

By Nicholas Smith, Archivist.For the V&A Archive’s contribution to International Women’s Month, I have chosen to profile Marion Thring, the first full-time female guide-lecturer at the V&A.

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Spring is here! Time to enjoy the V&A’s Garden

By James Sutton, Records and Archives Assistant, V&A Archive.The John Madejski Garden is an oasis in the centre of the Museum and now that Spring is here again we’ll be able to step out of the galleries and enjoy the courtyard garden to the full.

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Johns Hopkins University students visit the V&A Archive

Last September Dr Earle Havens from Johns Hopkins University approached me about the V&A Archive hosting a group of eight undergraduate students as part of their Museums and Society Programme visit to London. The V&A Archive is visited regularly by individual researchers from overseas, who study our unique and irreplaceable documents for a range of […]

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