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Puppet resources in the Theatre and Performance collections

Juggler marionette, Tiller-Clowes Troupe, 1870s-1890s, Museum no. S.291-1999

Juggler marionette, Tiller-Clowes Troupe, 1870s-1890s, Museum no. S.291-1999

The V&A regularly acquire puppets. The Theatre and Performance Department's holdings include 243 puppets acquired as part of the British Puppet and Model Theatre Guild Archive, and glove puppets made and performed by Paul Hansard. The collection also includes a number of notable 19th century marionettes including the Tiller-Clowes troupe of 35 puppets, and the Jim Tiller collection of 25 marionettes.

Researching puppetry at the V&A

Sources of information include playbills and programmes for puppet performances on the stage in London, including early 19th century plays adapted for the toy theatre stage.

The library in the Theatre and Performance Reading Room contains a considerable number of books on puppetry.

We hold runs of periodicals such as the 'Newsletter of the British Puppet and Model Theatre Guild', 'The Newsletter of British UNIMA', 'The Puppet Master' - the Journal of the British Puppet and Model Theatre Guild, 'Puppet Notebook' - the periodical of the British UNIMA and 'Animations' - a review of puppet and puppet related theatre. The periodical of The Society for Theatre Research, 'Theatre Notebook', also contains some articles relating to puppetry.

Monkey marionette, Arthur Wilkinson, 1920s. Museum no S.120-1987

Monkey marionette, Arthur Wilkinson, 1920s. Museum no S.120-1987

A selection of images of marionette puppets is available on the website and details of over 50 puppets are available within Search the Collections.

Monkey marionette

This monkey puppet is called a marionette because it is operated from above, by strings attached to a control bar.

It was carved by Arthur Wilkinson, inspired by the toy Italian puppets he had seen in 1914. He started his career as a professional puppeteer by touring his puppets through England in a caravan, performing with his brother Walter (who later concentrated on the glove puppetry revival).

After Arthur married Lily Gair, they became known as the 'Gair Wilkinson Marionettes', and he later assumed the name 'Gair Wilkinson' professionally.

By 1928 he had carved a remarkable set of marionettes, (now owned by the Theatre collections), including the monkey and Marino, Pagliacci and Pimpinella, and Harlequin and Columbine.

The archive of The British Puppet and Model Theatre Guild

This is a collection amassed by members of the Guild and contains a wide variety of material relating to puppetry both in Great Britain and abroad. It includes material relating to the formation and administration of the Guild itself, including minute books, articles, correspondence, photograph albums, and brochures.

The collection includes material relating to Punch and Judy, puppets in Britain, Europe and Asia, and amateur puppet theatre. This may be searched in the Reading Room using the catalogue of the collection prepared by its archivist Tom Howard.

Puppet resources at the V&A's Museum of Childhood

The Museum of Childhood puppet web page also features puppets including hand puppets, string puppets, Bunraku puppets from Japan and shadow puppets from Java.

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