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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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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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The Vogue Archive and the National Art Library

Did you know that the National Art Library (NAL) subscribes to The Vogue Archive which can be accessed by visitors within the NAL Reading Rooms? The Vogue Archive database contains the entire run of American Vogue from 1892 to the present day. It is fully searchable and comprises high-resolution colour page images of the work […]

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