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The Archive of Art and Design (AAD) was established in 1978 to house the Victoria and Albert Museum’s growing holdings of archival material.

It collects, conserves and makes available for research the archives of individuals, associations and companies involved in any stage of the art and design process. These include collections that have been used or built up by artists and designers in the course of their work. Particular emphasis is placed on the records of British 20th- and 21st-century design.

What is in the Archive of Art and Design?

The AAD’s collecting area largely reflects that of the Museum’s collections. Subjects include:

  • Architecture and interior design
  • Book illustration
  • Ceramics and glass
  • Contemporary art and design
  • Exhibition design
  • Fashion
  • Fine arts
  • Furniture design
  • Graphic design
  • Metalwork, silver and jewellery
  • Stained glass design
  • Textile design

The Archive of Art and Design holds over 200 separate archive groups. They vary in size from a few to several thousand items and contain many different types of material, such as designs, sketches, order books, accounts, correspondence, photographs and promotional material. Some notable archives are:

  • The Arts Council of Great Britain
  • Biba, department store
  • Lucienne and Robin Day, designers
  • John French, fashion photographer
  • Eileen Gray, architect and interior designer
  • Heal & Son Ltd, furniture manufacturers and retailers
  • Krazy Kat Arkive of Twentieth Century Popular Culture (Eduardo Paolozzi’s collection)
  • James Powell & Sons Ltd, stained glass manufacturers
  • The House of Worth, Paris, couture firm

In addition, some printed ephemera is collected as a record of contemporary developments in advertising, packaging and graphic design, and to complement the holdings of the Museum, for instance through High Street trawls twice a year.

An alphabetical list of archives held is available online.

There is a small reference library of books, journals and articles relating to the archives held.

Finding aids

General descriptions of each archive in the AAD can be found on the National Art Library’s Computer Catalogue or in the Guide to the Archive of Art and Design compiled by Elizabeth Lomas (London: V&A/Fitzroy Dearborn, 2001).

Printed catalogues are available for most of the archives and are held at the Blythe House Archive & Library Reading Room, at the National Art Library, and at the National Register of Archives at the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts.

Some lists are available online. Follow the links from the alphabetical list.

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