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Click here to access Search the Collections

Search the Collections is a working database providing online access to over a million catalogue records and over half a million images of objects in our collections. We make as much information available as we can and continually enrich and update the database. New text and images are added each month.

You can write to us to suggest improvements to the records here

The V&A's collections also include the National Art Library, the Archive of Art and Design, and the library collections of the Theatre & Performance Department. These are catalogued on a separate library database http://catalogue.nal.vam.ac.uk/

Browsing

You can also browse the collection from individual object records using the 'Related search links' in the left hand margin. These links will retrieve records from across the whole collection.

Basic searching

To search, type one or more words in the search box and click the button marked ‘Search’. This search explores all fields in the database and returns records with the most relevant at the top.

More search options

By clicking 'More search options' you can search for words or names in particular fields of the database. For example, searching for Green in the 'Artist/maker' field will find records associated with a person or institution called Green, but not records that simply contain the word green elsewhere.

You can enter search terms into more than one field and you can use the 'More search options' box to combine your search with terms you have entered into the basic search box.

Using Current Location searches

The current location of every object in the database is stored and returned as part of the record details. The location information ranges from the relatively precise, 'shelf number', through increasingly broader terms such as 'case number' and 'room number' to generic groupings based on subject areas, for example 'photography' or 'British galleries'.

To make a general search using part of the location information enter any one of the location terms, for example searching on 'room 38a' or just '38a' will return just the objects on display in Room 38a. Alternatively a term like 'silver' entered in the Current location field will return records of objects in the Silver Galleries and the Silver Discovery Area's but not all of the silver objects in the collection.

How to enter an exact location into the Search field

In order to return results for a precise location the search term should be entered in the following form. Note the punctuation - "room, case, shelf"For example:

"room 139, case 18, shelf 8"

OR

"room 137, case U, shelf 4"

In some location descriptions there are variations in the way the location is described, for example items in the Prints & Drawings Study Room have a level designator rather than a room number and a proportion of those records give both a shelf number and a box reference.

If the location information is shown as 'In store' this indicates that the item is not currently on display. If the location is shown as 'On loan' the object is currently away from the Museum.

By clicking 'More search options' you can search for words or names in particular fields of the database. For example, searching for Green in the BrowsingYou can also browse the collection from individual object records using the 'Related search links' in the left hand margin. These links will retrieve records from across the whole collection.'Artist/maker' field will find records associated with a person or institution called Green, but not records that simply contain the word green elsewhere.

You can enter search terms into more than one field and you can use the 'More search options' box to combine your search with terms you have entered into the basic search box.

Limiting your searches

You can choose to search only for records with images by selecting the 'Records with Images' button to the right of the main Search box before performing your search. For 'Best quality records' that contain images and detailed descriptions select the button 'Best quality records'. Alternatively to search everything in the database select the All Records button before performing your search.

Location search in the Ceramics Study Galleries

By clicking 'More search options' you can reveal additional search fields including 'Current location', use this search field to find detailed information on objects displayed in the Ceramics Study Galleries (Rooms 136-139 inclusive)

Within these rooms all the cases and shelves are numbered. You can use these numbers, in combination with the room numbers to find information related to the objects on the specific shelves.

Room 136 - China
There are four corner cases labelled A, B, C, D.
The central cases are numbered 1 to 10 and they have seven shelves in each, numbered 1 to 7 from the top to the bottom.

Wares     Cases
Enamelled porcelain     A, C & 1-3, 5, 8, 9
Porcelain decorated in underglaze blue and red        4
Monochrome porcelain      6, 7
Yixing, Dehua, Shiwan     10
Porcelain with mounts     B
20th-century ceramics     D
Room 137 - Asia & Europe
There are 64 wall cases A to Z, A1 to Z1 and A2-K2 each of these cases has four shelves, numbered 1 to 4 top to bottom.
The central cases are numbered 1 to 52, with eight shelves in each, numbered 1 to 8 from top to bottom.

Wares     Cases
China     A-I & 1-15
South-East Asia     J & 17
Korea     K-L & 18
Japan     M-P & 19-24
South Asia     Q-R & 16-17
Middle East     S-B1 & 25-32
Spain     C1-G1 & 33-36
Portugal & Mexico     H1 & 35-36
Italy     I1-U1 & 36-43
France        V1-B2 & 43-47
Netherlands     C2-E2 & 47-50
Germany       F2-H2 & 52
Europe        I2-L2 & 50-51
Room 138 - Britain
There are 12 inner cases A to L, each of these cases has five shelves, numbered 1 to 5 top to bottom.
There are 14 outer cases numbered 1 to 14, with eight shelves in each numbered 1 to 8 from top to bottom.

Wares     Cases
Slipware & medieval pottery       A & 1
Brown salt-glazed stoneware       B & 7
Tin-glazed earthenware        C-F & 2-4
Early Staffordshire     G & 5-6
White salt-glazed stoneware       H & 6-7
Creamware & pearlware     I-J & 8-11
Unglazed stonewares     K & 12-13
Figures       L & 13-14
Room 139 - Britain & Europe
There are 37 wall cases A to Z and A1 to K1, each of these cases has four shelves, numbered 1 to 4 top to bottom.
The central cases are numbered 1 to 46, with eight shelves in each numbered 1 to 8 from top to bottom.

Wares     Cases
British porcelain     A-M & 1-19
German & Austrian porcelain       N-R & 20-23
Italian & Spanish porcelain       S & 24
French porcelain     T-Y, B1-C1 & 25-29
European porcelain     Z-A1 & 28-29
British pottery     D1-G1 & 29-32
European pottery     H1-I1 & 37-38
British art pottery     J1-K1 & 33-35
Factory ceramics     39-42
Studio ceramics     43-46

Presenting your search results

You can change the way your results are presented. Clicking on 'Image Only' will display your results as a grid of images. Clicking on 'List View' will present you results as a list including a small thumbnail image in the left margin and brief details. Click the arrow in the right margin for more information about an object without leaving the list. To view individual object records click on the object title or the thumbnail image.

Where no image exists for an object a blank square will appear. Records with images and detailed descriptions will appear nearer the top of the results.

You can choose how many results to show using the 'Results per Page' buttons.

Clicking an image will reveal a pop-up with a larger picture and basic details. From here you can click 'View details' to see an individual object record.

Narrowing your search results

Once you have performed a search you can choose to explore within your results by clicking on 'Narrow your results'. The box opens to reveal a list of categories to explore. Click on these links to carry out further searches within the results you have already found. Each time you click a link you will explore within the existing set. To return to a particular set, click the 'back' button on your browser.

Sorting results

In 'List View' you can sort your results by clicking on the heading of a column eg. click on Date to sort results chronologically. Where there are multiple entries in a field, such as more than one artist, the list will be sorted based on the first entry in the field.

Individual object records

Clicking on 'View details' in any set of results will take you to an individual object record. If the object has an image it will show at top left. You can enlarge the image by clicking on it. If there are other images of this object they will be represented by thumbnail versions below the main image, click on these alternate views to see larger versions.

Brief object details appear to the right of the image including current location and museum object number.

If an object description exists it will display in the Summary tab below. All other object information, such as Dimensions, Inscriptions and Bibioliographic references, appears in the 'More information' tab.

You can browse further in the collection using the 'Related search links' in the left hand margin. These links will retrieve records from across the whole collection.

You can download a pdf file of a record which is fully formatted for printing.

Getting Started with using images

1. Image formats

Our images are available in two formats: low or high resolution. Conditions apply to how and where they are used. Permission depends on use rather than user.

Low resolution images

768 pixels along the longest side

72dpi

Suitable for PowerPoint presentations and online use

High resolution images

2500 pixels along the longest side

300dpi

Suitable for print publication

2. Image use

We are very happy for you to download images and to use these free of charge as long as usage falls within the following criteria:

Personal use: this means the use of a single copy of each image by one person for non-commercial research and private study.

For print based academic publications, print-runs of up to and including 4,000.

For print based academic publications, a licence restricted to one-time use and one edition only.

For academic e-publications, individual subscriptions for e-books and e-journals of up to and including 4000 copies.

For academic e-publications, a licence restricted to 3 years from first day of publication.

Inside publication use: book jackets are subject to our commercial conditions (see below).

High resolution images should be printed no larger than A5 size.

All images must be credited as follows: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Reproduction of high resolution images in a thesis submitted by a student at an educational establishment (as defined in the Definitions section of our Terms of use for the purpose of securing a degree.

Reproduction of high resolution images in print or electronic newsletters and other periodical reports published by charities and other non-profit organizations for circulation to members, supporters or 'friends'.

3. Commercial use of images

If you need an image for a use beyond the terms and conditions above, please contact our commercial image licensing team, V&A Images.

4. Downloading images

To download a low-res image, right click the image and select 'Save Picture as/ copy image' from the pop-up menu. You will then be able to save the image onto your PC or mobile device.

5. Copyright

The V&A is committed to respecting third party Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) as well as being able to protect its own IPR, including V&A copyright and trade marks. The text and images published on 'Search the Collections' are protected by copyright law, and include a number of images which have been licensed to the Museum for use by third parties. If you have any copyright concerns, please contact us via our enquiry form.

6. Privacy Policy

Please read our privacy policy here http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/p/privacy-policy/.

7. Enquiries

We hope that you find our service useful and welcome your feedback. Please contact us at vanda@vam.ac.uk.

If you have an enquiry about the V&A, please contact us via our enquiry form.

Frequently Asked Questions about downloading from Search the Collections

1. I cannot download the high resolution image I would like.

Some images are restricted by copyright, but many are available, as indicated on the individual image.

2. The high resolution image I have downloaded appears to be too small.

Where objects have high resolution images available, these are sized at up to 2500 pixels along the longest side of the image (300dpi), and of a printing quality up to A5 in size. You simply need to accept the terms of use to download high resolution images.After accepting terms, you can continue to download large images. Image downloading sessions timeout after 30 minutes, after which you will need to re-confirm acceptance. You can do this as many times as you need to. 

If you want to publish images larger than A5, please contact our image licensing team, V&A Images.

3. I would like to download a low resolution image for non-commercial research or private study.

You can download low resolution images for certain uses without needing permission from the copyright holder. Please see question 8.

To download an image for this purpose, right click on the image and select 'save picture as/copy image' from the pop-up menu.

4. I would like to use an image for a purpose not covered by Search the Collections terms and conditions.

If you would like to use an image for a use not covered by our terms and conditions, please contact our image licensing team, V&A Images.

5. Why are some images marked 'image unavailable'?

We publish new images and information on our free image resource Search the Collections every month. At the end of August 2011, the number of images available online was 230,728 and we intend to make images of all collection items available. We hope you will enjoy our free resource.

If you would like an image of a collection item which is not currently available on Search the Collections, please contact our image licensing team, V&A Images.

6. Why are some images marked 'in copyright'?

Some collection items on Search the Collections are still in copyright and the V&A may not be the copyright holder. Images of these collection items are restricted as they may require special permission. Images of these items are therefore not available for high resolution download.

7. How do I use an image of a work that is marked 'in copyright'?

Should you wish to order an image marked 'in copyright', please contact copyrightenquiries@vam.ac.uk for further advice quoting 'marked in copyright' in the subject field of your message.

8. Are there instances where images of 'in copyright' works may be downloaded and used without requiring permissions from the rights holder?

The UK Copyright, Design and Patent Act 1988 as amended and revised lists a limited number of examples or 'exceptions' where images of 'in copyright' works may be copied. These exceptions are known as 'Fair Dealing'.

Examples include:

  • Copying for research of a non-commercial nature and private study e.g. use in a thesis submitted by a student for the purpose of securing a degree
  • Criticism and review e.g. an image accompanies an essay, which is a review or criticism and is directly commented on in the essay
  • Incidental inclusion of a work e.g. a sculpture in the background of a general gallery shot

If you are not sure if your intended use is allowed or you need further help, please contact copyrightenquiries@vam.ac.uk

9. How do I contact the V&A with a general enquiry?

We hope that you find our service useful and welcome your feedback. Please contact us at vanda@vam.ac.uk

If you have an enquiry about the service not covered above, please contact us via our enquiries form.


Closed research projects

The V&A has an active research culture across all staff activities. There have been a number of research projects that have been involved Search the Collections directly. These have been studied and cited by external researchers and students.

The following projects are closed and are listed for historical interest for the benefit of researchers.

Image crowd-sourcing project

This project ran from 2008 and was actively collecting data until 2011. The project is now closed, but the service is currently still available so that its function can be seen, but the data collected is not being used.

Launch crowd-sourcing

Fabric image browser

This project ran from 2008 - 2011 that looked at image browsing using collections data.

Test searching by colour

The Victoria and Albert Museum was part of a research group looking at how to search digital images visually. Computer software developed by Dundee University automatically organizes images by elements such as colour, visual texture, and shape.

Examples of visually searching images are still available a special selection from the V&A's objects. 

Please click a category in the list below to begin visual browsing:

How to Use the Visualiser

Select a set of images from one of the options listed above.

Once you have selected a set, drag the slider in the bar above the grouped images to change the space between the thumbnails. The further to the right you drag the slider the bigger the gaps between images.

If you double-click an image a new window will open to show you the full size image and the associated record data from the V&A's Search the Collections application. Please note, if this functionality does not appear to be working, check whether your browser has a pop-up blocker feature. You will need to allow pop-ups to be able to click through to the full Search the Collections records.

In this Beta version there are a few other controls you can explore. Expand the Preferences menu at the bottom right of the screen and experiment with turning on or off options in the list.

By default the viewer arranges the images grouped by colour. It is also possible to see the objects arranged by texture. Within the Preferences menu, change the 'View' dropdown from 'Colour' to 'Texture' to arange them based on the texture of the image itself. For example plain or subtle patterns will group on one side with vibrant, jagged patterns on another. This is particularly easy to see if you view the 'Chairs' set, where the angular tubular chair images group together opposite those with rounded and smooth shapes.

You can return to Search the Collections at any time using the Exit Visualiser button in the top right corner of the screen.

 

More about Searching by Colour

This project, known as FABRIC (Fashion and Apparel Browsing for Inspirational Content) is a UK Technology Strategy Board funded project that is developing innovative technologies that help people browse image collections for design inspiration.

Designers are more likely to use images rather than descriptions to spark and fuel their creativity. The FABRIC project is developing and evaluating software that helps enable effective browsing, retrieval, and management of digital art images throughout the textile and clothing industry, with application to other creative industries.

Novel software enables automated positioning of individual images within a large digital collection based on their visual attributes such as colour, texture, and shape, regardless of whether they share keywords with the original image.

This technology is being evaluated with the Victoria and Albert Museum for cultural heritage applications and by Liberty Art Fabrics for design inspiration for the commercial sector.

Research is funded by the UK Technology Strategy Board and includes collaborators from:
University of Dundee
Liberty Art Fabrics
Victoria and Albert Museum
System Simulation

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