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In its role as the Library of the Victoria and Albert Museum, the National Art Library has a special responsibility to preserve and make available publications produced by, for, or in association with the Museum during its whole history.

Scope of the V&A publications collection

The publications of the V&A reflect the history and organisation of the Museum since its origin after the Great Exhibition of 1851, when a Museum of Ornamental Art was established at Marlborough House, London, in conjunction with the Government Schools of Design. In 1857 the Museum moved to part of its present site and was known as the South Kensington Museum until 1899, when Queen Victoria renamed it the Victoria and Albert Museum.

A branch museum had been established at Bethnal Green in 1872, and this site became the Museum of Childhood in 1974. From the late 1940s to 1991 the V&A also adminstered Ham House and Osterley Park House for the National Trust. Today, the V&A administers the Museum of Childhood, Bethnal Green and the Theatre Collections. The Wellington Museum at Apsley House was also formerly a branch museum but is now adminstered by English Heritage. The Science Museum, originally part of the South Kensington Museum, is now a completely separate institution.

Types of publication include collection catalogues, guide books, picture books, topical studies, leaflets and catalogues of exhibitions organised by and/or held at the Museum or any of its branches, as well as publications wholly or partly about the Museum but produced independently of it, including monographs and periodical articles.

V&A publications in the online catalogue

In common with all the Library's holdings, the publications comprising the V&A Publications Collections are entered on the Library's online catalogue. This was achieved in advance of the main catalogue conversion project (see National Art Library's Heritage Project), and the records enhanced with more detail and access points, thanks to initial funding from the V&A Research Fund and the Friends of the V&A.

Like other types of material, V&A publications can be searched by authors' names, editors' names, titles and subjects. In addition, all V&A publications have a name index entry for one or more of the following:

  • Apsley House
  • Bethnal Green Museum
  • Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood
  • Ham House (England)
  • Osterley Park (London, England)
  • South Kensington Museum
  • Theatre Collections (Victoria and Albert Museum)
  • Victoria and Albert Museum
  • Wellington Museum

Publications associated with a specific department will also have a more specific heading such as:

  • Victoria and Albert Museum. Circulation Department

Where possible, it is quicker to search for a specific author or title rather than browse through a long list of entries for the Museum itself.

The bibliography of V&A publications to 1996

As well as the records for V&A Publications created in the online catalogue, the V&A Publications cataloguing project resulted in the print publication of a fully indexed and cross-referenced chronological bibliography. In addition to the list of books and periodicals, it includes a chronology of exhibitions organised by or held at the V&A throughout its history. It is believed to be the first time that comprehensive information of this kind has been published for such an institution in the UK:

  • The Victoria and Albert Museum : a bibliography and exhibition chronology, 1852-1996< / compiled by Elizabeth James. Published by Fitzroy Dearborn in association with the V&A. xxvii, 804 p., 8 p. of plates. ISBN 1884964958

Access to the V&A publications collections

The discrete V&A Publications Collection within the NAL, including many nineteenth century items, some rare or unique, is subject to some restriction of access, in order to preserve it in good condition in perpetuity. Where the Library holds multiple copies, at least one copy is available for consultation under normal conditions, and books especially useful for reference, such as comprehensive catalogues, are also readily available on open access in the Reading Rooms.

For more information, see using the National Art Library.

Related collections and research sources

Archives of the V&A
For unpublished archives relating to the history and activities of the Museum, see the V&A Archive.

Great Exhibition (1851)
The Library holds a unique collection of material relating to the Great Exhibition of 1851, Sir Henry Cole and the development of the South Kensington museum site. As with V&A Publications, records for Great Exhibition material in the online catalogue are enhanced with extra detail and points of access, to aid researchers.

V&A staff publications
Publications by staff of the Museum have been collected and catalogued by the Library throughout its history. Since 1990, the Museum has also regularly published a Research Report, in which staff publications and other activities are documented. The Reports themselves are available for consultation in the Library, and the bibliographical details they contain are also being added to the online catalogue. From 2002 the research reports have been published online.

Further information

For more information about the history of publishing at the V&A, and the collections of V&A publications in the National Art Library, please contact:

Elizabeth James
Documentation Manager
National Art Library
Word & Image Department
Victoria and Albert Museum
London SW7 2RL

For information about current V&A books, and how to purchase them, see V&A Books.

Private Group Tours & Talks

We offer a wide range of tours to meet your group requirements. Whether a group has a special area of interest, wishes to explore a particular gallery or just get an overview of the Museum's collection the Groups Team can help.

View our Private Group Tours & Talks