Tales from the Archives

Through Tales from the Archives we plan to share with you interesting facts about the history of the V&A and hidden stories from our various archives, keep you informed about our current and future projects, give you sneak previews of our new acquisitions and insights into what it is like to run a busy archive service.

The Victoria and Albert Museum Archives comprise:
The Archive of Art and Design (AAD), which collects, conserves and makes available for research the archives of individuals, associations and companies involved in design and the applied arts
The Beatrix Potter Collections), which constitute the world’s largest assemblage of Beatrix Potter’s drawings, literary manuscripts, correspondence, photographs and related materials
The V&A Archive, which manages the Museum’s institutional records and supports research into the collections and history of the V&A, and the broader history of art and design.

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New Research Guide: Plaster casts – research resources in the V&A Archive

The Archive webpages are undergoing a makeover by the V&A’s Digital Media team. In the meantime, our current pages remain online, so you still have access to our catalogues, research guides and other information. The new webpages, however, promise a slicker visual design, improved layout, and some new content. Here’s a sneak preview of a research […]

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Guest Post: Alexander Barker and the South Kensington Museum

Flat Sun-Dial and Compass

Harry Dougall recently graduated with an MA in Curating the Art Museum from the Courtauld Institute of Art. His dissertation Alexander Barker (1797-1873) and the South Kensington Museum: Private Serving Public in the Victorian Art World offers the first attempt to understand and situate the collector Alexander Barker within the context of the mid-Victorian art-world. […]

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Henry Cole and the Koh-i-Noor Diamond

I recently finished reading Koh-i-Noor: The History of the World’s Most Infamous Diamond by William Dalrymple and Anita Anand, (Bloomsbury, 2017), in which I learned that this gemstone – thought in the nineteenth century to be the largest and most valuable in the world – was exhibited at the Great Exhibition of the Works of […]

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Lawrence Alma-Tadema’s self-portrait: a forgotten loan

Photograph of Self-Portrait of Lourens Alma Tadema

The other weekend I visited the Alma-Tadema: At Home in Antiquity  exhibition (7 July – 29 October 2017) at Leighton House Museum. Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836–1912) was a Dutch-born artist who settled in London in 1870 following the death of his first wife; he is best known today for his striking renditions of opulence and excess […]

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Henry Cole and the Swiney Cup

Dr George Swiney (c.1786-1844) seems to have developed some quirky behaviours in later life; fittingly, perhaps, his Edinburgh University MD thesis had been entitled De Insania [On Madness]. According to the obituary published in The Gentleman’s Magazine (July, 1841) He lived in the greatest seclusion, not going out of doors more than five or six […]

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Design Archives Online and the Plastics Age

Harrison & Sons 'Promenade' laminate sample, Jacqueline Groag

By Ruth de Wynter, Project Assistant, Design Archives Online One of the pleasures of working on the Jewish émigré designers project has been exploring the wonderful array of work they produced across disciplines and  threads and themes that emerge; they may have been friends or colleagues (Hermann Hecht was Hans Schleger’s assistant and Jacques Groag […]

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Doing their bit for their (adopted) country

"For vitality eat greens”, poster, Hans Schleger, ca. 1942-1944

By Frankie Alves, Archivist, Design Archives Online One of the main tasks of the Design Archives Online project is auditing, which, broadly speaking, means checking that everything in a particular archive is where it’s supposed to be, and that the catalogue description is accurate – and is a great way of getting to know collections […]

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Henry Cole at the Boat Race

Boat race map

How did your crew fare in yesterday’s Cancer Research UK Boat Race (aka Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race)? After last year’s disappointment, it was a relief (for me) to see the Dark Blues triumph in the men’s race. As Henry Cole (1808-1882), the V&A’s first director, went straight from school at Christ’s Hospital, Horsham, to a job as […]

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John Dillon – autograph collector

Nowadays we tend to use the terms ‘autograph’ and ‘signature’ interchangeably. When we ask a celebrity for his autograph, he usually scribbles his personal signature. There is, however, a telling distinction between an autograph and a signature, which the autograph collector Ray Rawlins learned through a frosty encounter with a member of the British aristocracy: […]

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Languages, Sprachen, Yaziki and more in Design Archives

El Al logo, design, George Him, 1966

By Frankie Alves, Archivist, Design Archives Online I studied languages before I became an archivist, and I always get quite excited when I find something in an archive that isn’t in English.  Unsurprisingly, there is a lot of this in the archives of our Jewish émigré designers, so I’ve had a great excuse to break […]

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