History of the V&A and the Schools of Design study guide

Exterior of the Victoria & Albert Museum showing a view of the south-west tower and the main tower, London, England, UK, 1986.

Exterior of the Victoria & Albert Museum showing a view of the south-west tower and the main tower, London, England, UK, 1986.

This guide describes a selection of resources available for investigating the history of the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Schools of Design. It lists both published and unpublished material, such as annual reports, archival documents and press cuttings as well as standard secondary sources discussing the history of the Museum. Most sources can be consulted in the reading rooms of the National Art Library.

History of the Victoria & Albert Museum

The story of how the V&A came into being and has developed over the last 150 years is described on the website A Grand Design: the Art of the Victoria and Albert Museum

A brief timeline of the V&A 1835–1899

  • 1835–36 Select Committee of Arts and Manufactures
  • 1837 Foundation of the Government School of Design in Somerset House, London
  • 1851 The Great Exhibition opens in the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, London
  • 1852 Henry Cole appointed superintendent of the Department of Practical Art; the Department, including the Museum of Manufactures and the School of Design, moves into Marlborough House
  • 1853 Department of Practical Art becomes the Department of Science and Art; Museum of Manufactures renamed the Museum of Ornamental Art
  • 1855 Building work begins on the South Kensington site
  • 1857 South Kensington Museum opens
  • 1899 South Kensington Museum renamed the Victoria and Albert Museum

Bibliography


Standard works
  • Burton, Anthony, Vision and accident: the story of the Victoria and Albert Museum. London: V&A Publications, 1999
    Pressmark: Ref 708.21 VIC/BUR
  • Cocks, Anna Somers,The Victoria and Albert Museum, the making of the collection. Leicester: Windward, 1980
    Pressmark: Ref 708.21 VIC/COC
  • James, Elizabeth, ed., The Victoria and Albert Museum: a bibliography and exhibition chronology, 1852–1996. London: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1998
    Pressmark: Ref 708.21 VIC/VIC
  • Morris, Barbara, Inspiration for design: the influence of the Victoria & Albert Museum. London: V&A, 1986
    Pressmark: 506.D.107
  • Physick, John, The Victoria and Albert Museum, the history of its building. London: V&A, 1982
    Pressmark: Ref 708.21 PHY
  • Victoria and Albert Museum, A Grand design: the art of the Victoria and Albert Museum. London: V&A Publications with the Baltimore Museum of Art, 1997
    Pressmark: Ref 708.21 VIC/GRA

Further reading
  • Barontini, Chiara, 'From the library of the School of Design to the National Art Library: 150 Years of art librarianship.' M.A. thesis, School of Library, Archive and Information Studies, University College London, 1993
    Pressmark: 21.G.82
  • Barontini, Chiara, The National Art Library and its buildings: from Somerset House to South Kensington. London: National Art Library, 1995
    Pressmark: NJ.95.0358
  • Barringer, Tim, 'The South Kensington Museum and the mid-Victorian moment.' In: Victorian: the style of empire; selected proceedings of the Fourth Annual Decorative Arts Institute. Toronto: Decorative Arts Institute, about 1996.
    Pressmark: 47.Y.2319
  • Bonython, Elizabeth. "Index to the Henry Cole diaries, 1822–1882, held in the National Art Library, Victoria & Albert Museum." 5 vols. Unpublished typescript, National Art Library, V&A, about 1992.
    5 volumes, alphabetically arranged by names and subjects. See entries under: South Kensington File and Schools of Art (Design)
    Pressmark: Ref 016.091 BON
  • Bonython, Elizabeth, King Cole: a picture portrait of Sir Henry Cole, KCB., 1808–1882. London: V&A, 1982.
    Pressmark: 190.H.117
  • Brown, Frank P, South Kensington and its art training. London: Green & Co., 1912
    Pressmark: G.30.J.12
  • Burlington Magazine CXX, no. 902 (1978)
    Issue devoted to the V&A. Introduction by Roy Strong
    Pressmark: PP.1.A
  • Cole, Sir Henry, Fifty years of public work of Sir Henry Cole, accounted for in his deeds, speeches and writings. London: G. Bell, 1882. 2 vols.
    Pressmark: 195.F.17, 18
  • Cole, Sir Henry, The functions of the Science and Art Department.  Bound with Introductory addresses on the Science and Art Department and the South Kensington Museum. London: Chapman and Hall, 1857
    Pressmark: VA.1857 Box 0001
  • Cox, Sir Trenchard, 'History of the Victoria and Albert Museum and the development of its collections.' Proceedings of the Royal Institution 37 no. 167, (1959)
    Pressmark: 22.L Box V
  • Davies, H.E., Sir John Charles (1824–1913): his role as a connoisseur and creator of public and private collections. D.Phil., Oxford University, 1992
    Pressmark: NC.95.0843
  • Great Britain: Dept. of Practical Art. A Catalogue of the articles of Ornamental Art, selected from the Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations in 1851 and purchased by the government: prepared at the desire of the Lords of the Committee of Privy Council for Trade. London: Chapman & Hall, 1851
    Pressmark: VA.1852.0002
  • King, Edmund M.B., 'The South Kensington Art Library: a study of its origins and development until 1900.' M.A. thesis, University of London, 1975
    Pressmark: II.RC.E.21
  • Levine, Arnold, The politics of taste: history of the Department of Science and Art. PhD thesis. Ann Arbor, MI: University Microfilms, 1989
    Pressmark: 209.M.72
  • Minihan, Janet, The Nationalization of culture: the development of state subsidies to the arts in Great Britain. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1977
    Pressmark: 83.KK.111
  • The Museums area of South Kensington and Westminster. Survey of London, vol. XXXVIII. London: Athlone Press for the Greater London Council, 1975.
    Includes chapters on South Kensington & the Science and Art Department, and on the Victoria and Albert Museum. References to archival and published sources, pp. 377–386
    Pressmark: Ref 720.9421 MUS
  • Pevsner, Niklaus, Academies of art past and present. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1940
    Pressmark: 22.H.43
  • Physick, John, 'From iron shed to marble halls: a history of the Victoria and Albert Museum and its buildings.' 2 vols. Typescript published as The Victoria and Albert Museum: the history of its building. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1982
    Pressmark: 35.R.115, 116
  • Purbrick, Louise, 'Building the house of Henry Cole.' In: Art apart: art institutions and ideology across England and North America, edited by Marcia Pointon. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1994
    Pressmark: 270.B.39
  • Wainwright, Clive, 'Principles true and false: Pugin and the foundation of the Museum of Manufactures.' Burlington Magazine 126, no. 1095 (June 1994): 357–364
    Pressmark: PP.1.A
  • White, Eva, From the School of Design to the Department of Practical Art: the first years of the National Art Library. London: National Art Library, 1994
    Pressmark: 503.B.121

History of art education and the Schools of Design
  • Bell, Quentin, The Schools of Design. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1963
    Pressmark: 90.F.47
  • Denis, Raphael Cardoso, 'The Brompton Barracks: war, peace and the rise of Victorian art and design education.' Journal of Design History 8, no.1 (1995)
    Pressmark: PP.2.O
  • Frayling, Christopher, The Royal College of Art: one hundred and fifty years of art and design. London: Barrie & Jenkins, 1987
    Pressmark: 504.C.112
  • MacDonald, Stuart, The history and philosophy of art education. London: University of London, 1970
    Pressmark: 22.F.104
  • Sparkes, John C.L., Schools of art: their origin, history, work, and influence. London: printed and published for the Executive Council of the International Health Exhibition and for the Council of the Society of Arts by William Clowes and Sons, Limited, 1884.
    Published as part of the International Health Exhibition, 1884
    Pressmark: A.44 (2)

National competition prize winners and national scholars
  • Wallis, George, Catalogue of the exhibition of works of manufacture: designed or executed by students of the Schools of Art in connexion with the Science and Art Department of the Committee of Council on Education, South Kensington, London. London: HMSO, 1858
    Pressmark: 502.B.42
    Includes indexes of manufacturers, schools and student exhibitors.
  • Sparkes, John C.L., Schools of art: their origin, history, work, and influence. London: William Clowes & Sons, 1884
    Pressmark: A.44 (2)
    Appendix F includes list of students, past and present, of the Training Class at South Kensington.  Appendix G includes a list of National Scholars.
  • Wallis, George, 'The work of the students of the Schools of Art in Great Britain and Ireland, in connection with the Science and Art Department, South Kensington.' In: International Health Exhibition, 1884. Section II. Education. London: William Clowes & Sons, Limited, 1884.
    Lists students who passed through the National Training School (Central School, Marlborough House and South Kensington) from 1853 and a list of National Scholars Central School, South Kensington.
    Pressmark:  A.44 (3) ; photocopies of lists of students at Ref 745.44941 CEN
  • Report of the examiners on the works sent from various schools of art in competition for national medals (1857–1868), continued as:
  • Report of the examiners on the national competition: together with the results of the examination of students in schools of art and of the examination of works sent up from schools of art in competition for prizes (1870–1882), continued as:
  • Reports of the examiners on the results of the art examinations ... (1898–1899)
    Pressmark: 97.PP.75
  • Great Britain: Dept. of Science and Art, National Competition ...: list of students rewarded, with the report of the examiners on the selected works of schools of science and art and art classes (1892–1898), continued as:
  • Great Britain: Board of Education, National competition ...: list of students rewarded, with the report of the examiners on the selected works of schools of science and art and art classes 1899–1914
    Pressmark: 97.PP.82
  • Fisher, John, An illustrated record of the retrospective exhibition held at South Kensington, 1896. London: Chapman & Hall, 1897.
    Contains 256 illustrations of the work of gold and silver medal winners.
    Pressmark: 21.F.60
  • Fisher, John, An illustrated record of national gold, silver and bronze medal designs, models, drawings, etc. London: Chapman & Hall, 1899.
    At head of title: National competitions 1896–97.
    Pressmark: 97.E.3
  • National Competition, retrospective exhibition, 1908: illustrated list ...works for which gold or silver medals have been awarded during the years 1897 to 1906. London: HMSO, 1908.
    Pressmark: 97.E.2

NB Prize winners and National Scholars are also listed in Reports of the Dept. of Science & Art (see Official reports for details). National Competition reports also list National Scholars.


Selected journals
  • Journal of design and manufactures (1849–1852)
    Pressmark: 95.EE. 29–35
  • Victoria and Albert Museum bulletin (1965–1968)
    Pressmark: PP.8.0
  • Victoria and Albert Museum yearbook (1969–1974)
    Pressmark: PP.8.0
  • Victoria and Albert Museum album (1982–1989)
    Pressmark: PP.5.A
  • In-View: news and events at the Victoria & Albert Museum (1992–1997)
    Pressmark: PP.44.U
  • V&A Magazine (1998– )
    Pressmark: PP.400.N

Official reports
  • Minutes of the Council of the Government School of Design 1836–1847. London: W. Clowes & Sons, 1846–1849.
    Pressmark: NB.97.0420
  • 1st Report of the Department of Practical Art 1853. London: George E. Eyre, 1853, continued as:
  • Report of the Department of Science and Art. London: HMSO, 1854–1899, continued as:
  • Report of the Board of Education. London: HMSO, 1899/1900–1917/18.
    Pressmark: 97.PP.83
    [See also Review of the principal acquisitions 1912–1939]
  • Calendar and general directory of the Science and Art Department ..., continued as:
  • Calendar of the Department of Science and Art … , continued as:
  • Calendar, history, and general summary of regulations of the Department of Science and Art. London: HMSO, 1884–1900.
    Pressmark: 97.PP.84
    Includes lists of Museum staff.
  • Great Britain. Dept. of Science and Art. Instruction in art: directions for establishing and conducting schools of art ..., continued as:
  • Great Britain. Dept. of Science and Art. Directory ... with regulations for establishing and conducting schools of art ..., continued as:
  • Great Britain. Dept. of Science and Art. Art directory ... with regulations for promoting instruction in art, continued as:
  • Great Britain. Dept. of Science and Art. Directory ... with regulations for establishing and conducting science and art schools and classes, continued as:
  • Great Britain. Board of Education. Directory ... with regulations for establishing and conducting science and art schools and classes. London: HMSO, 1856–1902.
    Pressmark: 97.PP.85
  • Review of the principal acquisitions.[Includes reports of the V&A for 1919–1939].
    London: HMSO, 1912–1939.
    Pressmark: 97.PP.98
  • Review of the years 1974–1978. London: HMSO, 1981.
    Pressmark: PP.8.0
  • Victoria and Albert Museum: report of the Board of Trustees. London: V&A, 1986–2001
    Pressmark: Ref 708.21 VIC
  • Victoria and Albert Museum, Strategic plan, 1991–1992
    Pressmark: V&A Pubs Coll VS
  • Victoria and Albert Museum, Corporate plan, 1993–1998
    Pressmark: V&A Pubs Coll VS
  • Victoria and Albert Museum: annual review, 2002–
    Pressmark: PP.600.H

Press cuttings

227 volumes of press cuttings. Early volumes compiled by Henry Cole and containing contemporary references to the V&A, the Schools of Design and art education. 135 volumes cover the period 1837–1914 and 92 volumes relating to the period 1915–1955. Six index volumes. The collection appears on the NAL Online Catalogue under the title 'Press Cuttings'. Available by advance appointment only. Please contact the V&A Archive on: +44 (0) 20 7602 8832 or Contact us online. The National Art Library also holds a single volume of press cuttings relating to the opening of the V&A on 26 June 1909 (Pressmark: 50.A.52). In addition, the NAL holds press cuttings for the past ten years. They can be requested by month and year. Older press cuttings are kept at the V&A Archive.


NAL information files

Reviews and other articles relating to temporary V&A exhibitions are listed by date on the Online Catalogue, in the Title A–Z index, under the general heading: 'V&A Exhibition Reviews etc.' The Library has also compiled a number of information files relating to permanent V&A galleries.


V&A archives

Unpublished material relating to the Museum's history is held in the V&A Archive at Blythe Road. Details of archival papers for the period 1844–1936 are given in a typescript list: 'Victoria & Albert Museum: Records, 1844–1936 (ED.84): key to arrangement' which is available at the Library's Counter (pressmark: CTR REF).  The ED.84 files were formerly held at The National Archives, returning to the V&A in early 1995.  For further information about access to  ED.84 files, and to subsequent records, contact: V&A Archive, 23 Blythe Road , London W14 0QF. Tel: + 44 (0) 20 7602 8832 or contact us online.


The National Archives

In addition to the ED.84 series, the following files held at The National Archives (formerly the Public Record Office) hold substantial material which either originates from the V&A or relates to the Museum, its early history and to the South Kensington site:

  • ED.9 Miscellanea 1839–1906
  • ED.23 Establishment files
  • ED.24 Surviving correspondence of the President and the Vice President
  • ED.28 Science & Art Department minute books
  • Works 17 Art & Science buildings
  • Works 33 Art & Science buildings (maps and plans)

Contact: The National Archives, Kew, Surrey, TW9 4DU. Telephone: +44 (0) 20 8876 3444


Searching the NAL online catalogue

The following headings are particularly useful for undertaking comprehensive research on material relating to the history of the V&A and the Schools of Design. Do a Name (as Author or Subject) Browse search on the Library Catalogue under the following headings:

  • Great Britain. Dept. of Practical Art
  • Great Britain. Dept. of Science and Art
  • Great Britain. Board of Education
  • Government School of Design (Somerset House, London)
  • Central Training School (Marlborough House)
  • National Art Training School (South Kensington)
  • Royal College of Art (Great Britain)
  • Museum of Ornamental Art
  • South Kensington Museum
  • Victoria & Albert Museum - Guide-books
  • Victoria & Albert Museum - History
  • Victoria & Albert Museum - Officials and employees
  • Victoria & Albert Museum - Reorganisation

You can also do a Subject Browse (NAL Subjects) search under the following subject headings:

  • Art education - British Isles - [date]
  • Design education - British Isles - [date]
  • London - Educational institutions

A gift in your will

You may not have thought of including a gift to a museum in your will, but the V&A is a charity and legacies form an important source of funding for our work. It is not just the great collectors and the wealthy who leave legacies to the V&A. Legacies of all sizes, large and small, make a real difference to what we can do and your support can help ensure that future generations enjoy the V&A as much as you have.

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