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Alphabet discs, 1800. Museum no. E.1739-1954

Alphabet discs, 1800. Museum no. E.1739-1954

Recording and controlling the names given to objects is one of the responsibilities of the Records Section at the V&A.

Many objects can be called by several different names. For example, that nice warm top you put on when it is cold - is it a jumper, a pullover, a sweater or a jersey? What is the difference between them?

Sometimes objects are given different names because they are different styles of the same object, made in a different way or using different materials. Sometimes objects from a particular place may be given a specific name, for example Fair Isle sweaters or Guernseys. A Guernsey is still a sweater, just a sweater made in a particular style and in a particular place.

Other objects may have different names in different languages or at different periods of history, for example the loose, ankle length trousers worn by both men and women in India and Southeast Asia are called shalwar, as well as, variously, harem pants, balloon pants and turkish trousers.

At the V&A, staff try to always use the same name for the same objects. This makes relationships between objects in the collection clearer and also makes sharing information with other museums, scholars and the public easier. When an object has many possible names it is not always easy to know which one to use, however, and it can also be important to be aware of the alternate names. For example, in communicating with scholars in the country from which an object came, staff may be more likely to use a non English name, or a very precise, technical term, while in a label they may use a name that will be more generally familiar.

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Theatrical Scene by Utagawa Kunisada l (Mounted Print)||EVAEX

Theatrical Scene by Utagawa Kunisada l (Mounted Print)||EVAEX

Theatrical scene from Jiraiya Goketsu Monogatari. Utagawa Kunisada l (1786–1865) Woodblock print Japan, 1852. The V&A's collection of ukiyo…

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Strawberry Thief Free iPad Game

Strawberry Thief by BAFTA award winning games designer Sophia George is a playful celebration of the work of Victorian designer William Morris. Uncover the famous Arts and Crafts design by drawing on your screen with your finger and watch your iPad transform from blank paper to an animated masterpiece.

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Event - Gallery Talk: India, Past and Future: Digitising Objects

Thu 08 October 2015 13:00–14:00

GALLERY TALK: Join Alessandro Ceccarelli as he explores the potential of digital technologies, particularly non-intrusive data capture, in relation to objects in the South East Asia galleries.

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